Noel Arguelles signed a 5 year 7 million dollar deal with the Kansas City Royals after defecting from Cuba. This means he is on the 40 man roster. Arguelles had a shoulder injury that cost him 2010.
This year, he has been brutal in his first shot in AA, striking out just 10.4% of batters, and walking 12.6 % of batters. His ground-ball rate is below average and his line drive rate is higher than league average. This all leads to a SIERA of 5.90 and FIP of 5.38. That FIP is the worst in the Texas League out of qualified pitchers. So what is going on with Arguelles? Is he a lost cause? Or is there still something there that gives you hope that he will be able to make it to the Majors and live out his contract? I watched his start against the Tulsa Drillers (Rockies AA) to see if I could find out.
At 6-4 220, the tall lefty has a high leg kick in his delivery. With a fastball that was just at 91 MPH (Scouting reports that I read say that the fastball is usually about 92 MPH), it provides a bit of deception, but could also throw off his mechanics. He was very fastball heavy in this outing. The pitched stayed high, but he could jam lefties with it. In his career he really hasn't been anymore effective against lefties than his righties (perhaps suggesting that this approach hasn't been effective or he hasn't been doing it often). In fact, this year, he has reverse splits, meaning he has been worse against lefties.
His curveball stayed way too high too often and wasn't very impressive.when he gets it down. Overall, it looked okay. Tim Torres took him deep and Troy Tulowitzski (on rehab assignment) nearly took him out in the first inning. Because the ball stays so high, he was giving up a lot of fly-balls. Keeping the ball in the park is actually something he has done reasonably well, with a below league average HR/FB% and HR/Contact%. It really helps when he can locate his fastball low.
I went back and watched his previous start as well against Frisco (Texas AA). In his Frisco outing, he threw the curveball a lot, especially to Engel Beltre. His command didn't look like a pitcher that has walked more batters than he struck out, and he looked like a pitcher with a better strikeout ability than his numbers. You can see what the Royals saw in him when you watched this outing. He had a really impressive inning in the first, as he struck out Beltre, Leury Garcia, and Jurickson Profar all in a row. His fastball velocity looked better than average.
I see several reports (mainly from before he signed) of a good changeup (that was better his curveball) but I never saw it when I saw him pitch. Some reports I read were worried about his ability to miss bats. This does make sense with the stuff he displayed when I saw him. It seems that it is all going to depend on his curveball. If he can control it and throw it low (after setting it up with his fastball) one could see him as a potential decent MLB starter. However, he is pretty far away from doing this.