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Royals prospect Justin Marks continues to fly under the radar

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For the Kansas City Royals to continue to show progress, guys like Justin Marks must take the next step at the minor league level.

Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

All puns aside, Justin Marks was a marked man in the Kansas City Royals organization. The former third round selection was traded to the Royals nearly two years ago when Kansas City sent long revered outfielder David DeJesus to the Oakland Athletics for Vin Mazzaro and Marks.

While DeJesus continues to enjoy modest success with the Chicago Cubs, the Royals have yet to get anything that has validated the trade as being a win for Dayton Moore and company.

Mazzaro has bounced back and forth from Omaha to Kansas City, while posting a 6.72 ERA in 72.1 innings with the big league club.

Meanwhile it was Marks who most fans held out hope for. The 6'3 left-hander who will turn 25 in January reached AAA Omaha in 2012, but spent the majority of his season at AA Northwest Arkansas. In 17 starts there he was 3-5 with a 3.80 ERA in 85.1 innings.

While his stats don't jump off the screen at you, his numbers have continued to improve in each of his minor league seasons.

Thus far in three starts in the Arizona Fall League, Marks is 2-0 with a 2.16 ERA in 8.1 innings pitched. He has allowed five runs, but only two have been earned. He does have six strikeouts, but also has given up four walks.

Marks is exactly the type of pitcher that Kansas City needs to see make a jump in 2013. While he will likely never been a star or anything above a back of the rotation guy (if that), Marks will be reaching his mid-20s next season. For a organization like the Royals who are starved for pitching depth, Kansas City needs to start seeing fringe guys like Marks move closer to the conversation.