Royals’ prospect Mike Moustakas may skip winter ball

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It’s a painfully slow day news-wise, so while we patiently wait for Game 6 of the NLCS between the Giants and Phillies to begin, I thought I’d use this opportunity to bring you up to speed on a position prospect we’ll probably be hearing a lot about next season.

Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo told Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star that the club is considering having top prospect third baseman Mike Moustakas skip playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic.

“When we made that decision (to send Moustakas to winter ball) in July,” Picollo said, “it was to see whether he can handle better pitching. But I saw him in the last week of the season in Omaha, and he faced a soft lefty, a hard-throwing lefty, a power righty, guys pitching backward – and he handled all of it.

“So the things we wanted to see him do in the Dominican, he’s already done them. Some guys still want him to go. We’re still discussing it.”

Moustakas, 22, batted .322/.369/.630 with 36 home runs and 124 RBI between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha this season before he joined team USA for the Pan American Games Qualifying Tournament in Puerto Rico. Baseball America recently ranked him as the top prospect in the Texas League for the 2010 season and the No. 2 prospect in the Pacific Coast League. Buster Posey, who played in 47 games with Triple-A Fresno before getting called up to the majors, ranked No. 1 in the PCL.

So, from Picollo’s comments, it sure sounds like Moustakas has nothing left to prove against minor league pitching, right? Probably not, but like Giants GM Brian Sabean did with Posey earlier this spring, look for the Royals to think of some sort of excuse before conveniently calling him up right around Memorial Day next season.

Clayton Kershaw might return to the Dodgers’ rotation next week

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Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw is nearing his return to the mound, according to club manager Dave Roberts. Both Kershaw (left biceps tendinitis) and fellow lefty Rich Hill (left middle finger blister) are scheduled to toss simulated games on Saturday; depending on the outcome, Roberts says Kershaw could forgo a minor league assignment and slot back into the rotation by Thursday.

Kershaw, 30, was diagnosed with biceps tendinitis as the team closed out their Mexico Series at the start of the month. He has not made a start in several weeks, but was finally able to resume throwing on Sunday and managed to get through two successful bullpen sessions. Though Dodgers’ ace hasn’t been completely injury-free over his 11-year career in the majors, this is the first significant issue he’s had with his pitching arm so far. The team is expected to take every precaution with the lefty, and will likely limit him to just four innings during Saturday’s simulated game.

Prior to his injury, Kershaw was working on another dominant run with the club, sporting a 2.86 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 9.8 SO/9 through his first 44 innings of the season. While Kershaw, Hill and left-handed starter Hyun-Jin Ryu served their respective terms on the disabled list this month, the Dodgers utilized a combination of relievers Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart, both of whom impressed during their limited time in the rotation.