Prospect. The very word evokes images of lottery tickets, of dreams pursued, deferred and lost. But prospect can also be a beautiful word, when the gold one seeks to make its appearance in the pan. The Kansas City Royals are going through a stretch where some high-end talent is starting to gel, but that is not only apparent in the higher levels of the organization, but low A as well.
Michael Antonio is one such prospect. Drafted by the Royals in the third round out of George Washington High School in New York City in 2010, the then-gangly shortstop gave only vague indication as to how he would develop, both physically, and on the baseball field. Initially plagued by injuries, not uncommon for a young player, he struggled somewhat in his first foray into professional baseball. However, toward the end of last season, finally healthy, he led the Rookie League Idaho Falls Chukars to the league championship, hitting three home runs and posting a gaudy 1.269 .OPS in the playoffs.
Now returning to low A Lexington for 2014, he is off to a fast start with a homer in his first game and an .OBP over .400 to start the season. Antonio has a lightning quick bat with a violent contact sound, the kind of sound that makes you stop the eating of your hot dog mid bite. His power is plus, and could well project to plus plus, as he is showing it off to all fields and is now comfortable with any pitch on any part of the plate, a credit to his discipline and improving pitch recognition.
In terms of build and pure strength, he compares favorably to Detroit Tigers superstar Miguel Cabrera, who it is worth noting, also struggled some as a very young prospect over a decade ago, before locking in and becoming the player we stand in awe of today. The bottom line on Michael Antonio is this — he has a humble persona, a voracious work ethic and pure, unadulterated raw power that sends chills up the spines of opponents, and causing anyone within ear shot to perhaps stain their shirt with mustard, as the hot dog is forgotten at the sound of his bat.
Ruined shirts — and frightened opponents — might soon be the norm at Kaufmann Stadium.