Kansas City Royals
Position: OF Height: 6-0 Weight: 170 Born: 12/20/79 Bats: Left Throws: Left
The Royals drafted David DeJesus in the fourth round in 2000, out of Rutgers. He sustained an elbow injury in his last college game, then blew it out completely early in 2001, necessitating Tommy John surgery. He didn't make his pro debut until 2002, but was very effective when he did, showing good leadoff skills at Class A Wilmington. More nagging injuries limited his playing time in 2003, but he acquitted himself well in Double-A and Triple-A, and impressed the K.C. brass during a major league cup-of-coffee.
DeJesus is not a physically imposing player, but he is a good athlete and strong for his size. He has a short, sharp, and compact swing. Although he does not have plus home run power, he generates good bat speed, has punch to the gaps, and will knock the occasional long ball. DeJesus controls the strike zone extremely well, seldom swinging at bad pitches. He thinks along with the pitcher, and will go to the opposite field when needed. He can sometimes be overpowered inside, but he has enough quickness in his wrists to punish the pitcher if a mistake is made over the plate. He holds in well against both breaking balls and changeups. DeJesus has above average speed, shows good instincts on the bases, and is a solid defensive outfielder. He has enough range for center field, but the elbow injury robbed him of arm strength. He works hard, and scouts like his work ethic and aggressive style of play.
There is little to criticize in DeJesus' numbers. He's not a big power guy, but he gets on base, draws walks, doesn't strike out much, and hits for average. His combination of a good walk rate with a low strikeout rate is a very positive marker for his future. He hit well in Triple-A, and is very close to being ready for full-time major league action.
Even when everything seems to be going well, the possibility of injuries sabotaging DeJesus' progress lurks in the background, like the Cigarette-Smoking Man undermining Mulder and Scully. Part of this is due to DeJesus' style of play: all out. He pushes his body hard. His biggest problem in '03 was his shoulder, which he injured in spring training. It bothered him all year, limiting him to 88 games.
What to expect
With Carlos Beltran still around, and the signing of Juan Gonzalez and Matt Stairs, the Royals have no immediate need to push DeJesus into a starting role in 2004. He could still make the roster as a reserve, where his defensive skills would certainly be valuable covering for Gonzalez and/or Stairs in the late innings. But the Royals see DeJesus as the replacement in center field for Beltran in 2005, so they may want him to get a full year of Triple-A under his belt rather than rust on the bench. Although he won't hit a ton of homers, his on-base ability, speed, defense, and hustle will make him a very useful player, assuming he can stay healthy.
Bob Feller: Ace of the Greatest Generation is now available. You can order it from various on-line booksellers, and it should start showing up in stores soon, though you can also special order it to speed delivery. My wife and I are going to pick up The Baseball Prospect Book 2004 from the printer this weekend, and we will start mailing copies out on Monday.
John Sickels is the author of the 2004 Baseball Prospect Book, which can be ordered only at his Web site, johnsickels.com. You can send John questions or comments at JASickels@aol.com.