2014 Top 10 Prospects: Kansas City Royals

The Royals have a solid system with depth and impact talents — both on the mound and in the field. Kansas City is one of few organizations with two potential top-of-the-rotation arms that could be ready to contribute at the big-league level by the end of 2014.

#1 Kyle Zimmer | 65/AA (P)

21 22 22 108.1 91 11 11.63 2.99 4.32 3.07

The Year in Review: The University of San Francisco alum got off to a slow start in 2013 but he was nearly untouchable in the second half. Even with his struggles, Zimmer still struck out 140 batters in 108.1 innings of work. After making 18 starts in High-A ball he was promoted to Double-A for another four appearances.

The Scouting Report: Zimmer has all the ingredients necessary to develop into a top-of-the-rotation arm. He has a fastball that works in the mid-90s and can touch the upper levels; it’s an overpowering offering when he can consistently command it. Both his breaking balls — a curveball and a slider — show the potential to develop into plus offerings. He also has a changeup that is a few steps behind in its development but has average potential. Zimmer’s athleticism helps him remain consistent with his delivery and his relative inexperience on the mound hints at further untapped potential.

The Year Ahead: Zimmer should return to Double-A to open the 2014 season but a quick start could see him promoted to either Triple-A or all the way to the Majors.

The Career Outlook: If he can stay healthy, Zimmer has the ceiling of a No. 1 or 2 starter if everything clicks. Even if his fastball command remains inconsistent or he fails to further develop the changeup it’s hard to envision him being anything less than a No. 3 starter.

#2 Yordano Ventura | 60/MLB (P)

22 15.1 6.46 3.52 48.9 % 3.52 5.33 4.30 0.3 0.0

The Year in Review: Ventura, 22, opened the year in Double-A but didn’t stay there long. After just 11 starts he was promoted to Triple-A for another 15 appearances. In total, the right-hander struck out 155 batters in 134.2 innings. He earned a late-season promotion to The Show and held his own in three starts.

The Scouting Report: Small but mighty, Ventura can routinely hit triple digits with his heater. He backs that up with an above-average curveball but his changeup still needs further refinement to be a reliable offering. His lack of premium size could preclude him from routinely breaking the 200-inning barrier but he’s held up well to date. Ventura’s control waivers at times and I’d like to see him change eye levels with the fastball a little more consistently.

The Year Ahead: Ventura will look to parlay his 2013 success into a permanent gig at the big league level but he’ll have to battle both Wade Davis and Danny Duffy for the fourth or fifth starter’s spot.

The Career Outlook: The Dominican native will always have his detractors due to his lack of premium size but Ventura has the ceiling of a No. 2 or 3 starter if his body holds up to the rigors of pitching 200+ innings a season.

#3 Raul Mondesi | 60/A- (SS)

17 536 126 13 7 34 118 24 .261 .311 .361 .312

The Year in Review: It was an up-and-down year for Mondesi during his first taste of full season ball, which is not surprising given his age (17). When the dust settled at the end of the year, though, he had compiled respectable numbers across the board — although he struck out a fair bit and his on-base percentage left a little to be desired.

The Scouting Report: Mondesi is a dynamic player both in the field and at the plate. He has a good idea at the plate for his age but needs more at-bats to improve his pitch recognition, contact rate, and consistency with his hitting mechanics. He shows good, but inconsistent, pop and should hit with more authority as he matures. Defensively, he is an excellent fielder with above-average range, a strong arm and improving actions. He could steal 30+ bases at the big league level.

The Year Ahead: One of the youngest players in every league he’s appeared in, it will be more of the same for Mondesi in 2014 when he moves up to High-A ball. Just 18 years old, he’ll likely spend the bulk of the year in A-ball but could sniff Double-A by the end of the season.

The Career Outlook: Mondesi has the tools necessary to develop into an impact player — both on offense and defense. He has a shot of reaching the Majors before his 20th birthday.

#4 Miguel Almonte | 55/A- (P)

20 25 25 130.2 115 6 9.09 2.48 3.10 2.76

The Year in Review: Almonte enjoyed his first full pro season at the Low-A ball level. He showed above-average control for his age with just 36 walks in 130.2 innings of work. The right-hander saw a significant increase in innings pitched from 77.0 in 2012 to 130.2 in 2013.

The Scouting Report: Almonte has an advanced feel for pitching for his age and his control is well above average for his experience level. His fastball works in the low 90s but touches the upper 90s at times. His changeup has its moments but the curveball needs a lot of polish. Almonte does a nice job of keeping the ball in the park but he could stand to command the ball down in the zone on a more consistent basis as he moves up the ladder.

The Year Ahead: The Dominican native will move up to High-A at the age of 20. If he continues to pitch like he did in 2013, Almonte could see Double-A in the second half of the ’14 season.

The Career Outlook: Almonte has a chance to develop into an innings-eating, middle-of-the-rotation starter.

#5 Jorge Bonifacio | 55/AA (OF)

20 444 111 26 4 44 83 3 .285 .360 .408 .354

The Year in Review: Bonifacio’s solid season was slowed by a broken hamate bone. Despite the missed time in the middle of the season, though, the young outfielder posted an .800 OPS and just missed a .300 batting average. He played at both High-A and Double-A (as well nine rehab games in rookie ball) during the regular season. After the season ended, he received some additional development time in the Arizona Fall League.

The Scouting Report: Bonifacio makes good use of his plus bat speed and short stroke. He has all-fields power but he’s still learning to turn his raw power into useable in-game pop. He hits for a good average because he uses the whole field and has a patient approach. Defensively, he has a strong arm but his modest foot speed limits his overall impact.

The Year Ahead: After spending just 25 games at the Double-A level in 2013, he’ll likely return to that team to begin the year. A strong start could catapult him to Triple-A, and possibly the Majors, in the second half of the year.

The Career Outlook: Bonifacio has a solid shot at developing into an average or better right-fielder at the big league level.

#6 Sean Manaea | 55/DNP

The Year in Review: The left-hander was an early favorite to be selected in the first round of the 2013 amateur draft but injury concerns pushed him to the Royals in the supplemental first round. He didn’t play after signing due to hip surgery.

The Scouting Report: Manaea has yet to throw a pro pitch but he showed a mid-90s fastball in college to go along with an above-average slider and developing changeup. The changeup will be important to help him combat tough right-handed hitters, although his fastball has good movement to it and he commands it well. He’s expected to rebound from the hip injury and has the frame to develop into an innings-eater.

The Year Ahead: If all goes well in the spring and he’s healthy, Manaea should open the year in High-A ball and could move quickly.

The Career Outlook: Manaea has a shot at developing into a No. 2 or 3 starter if he can avoid further major health issues.

#7 Hunter Dozier | 55/A- (3B)

21 317 84 30 7 38 37 3 .308 .397 .495 .402

The Year in Review: Dozier was the Royals’ first round pick in 2013 but many considered him to be an overdraft. Someone forgot to tell the infielder, though, and he hit like a top draft pick. Splitting his time between Advanced Rookie ball and Low-A ball, Dozier slugged 37 extra base hits in 69 games and hit more than .300. He also walked more than he struck out (38 BB/37 K).

The Scouting Report: Dozier has a good eye at the plate and does a nice job of waiting for his pitch. He has above-average power potential, although he could stand to add more loft to his swing. Defensively, he can handle both shortstop (although at a fringe-average level) and third base right now but projects to develop into an above-average fielder at the hot corner thanks to a strong arm, good range and solid actions.

The Year Ahead: Although he spent just 15 games in Low-A ball, Dozier is advanced enough to move up to High-A ball to open the 2014 season. If he continues to out-perform expectations, he could reach Double-A in the second half of ’14.

The Career Outlook: Some caution must be used when reading too much into Dozier’s outstanding (small sample) 2013 season but his tools hint at a future as a solid big league regular on the left side of the infield.

#8 Bubba Starling | 55/A- (OF)

20 498 105 21 13 53 128 22 .241 .329 .398 .338

The Year in Review: The fifth overall selection in the 2011 amateur draft, Starling had a disappointing 2013 campaign in Low-A ball. He had a slow start to the year but picked it up a little bit in the second half and posted a .973 OPS in August.

The Scouting Report: Starling is a high-ceiling, toolsy player that has yet to effectively jumpstart his offense. His stance and hitting mechanics have been tweaked a few times and he’s still trying to figure out what works for him. He has plus power potential but has yet to fully tap into it. Starling has above-average speed, strong defense and a plus arm in the outfield.

The Year Ahead: With any luck, Starling’s strong finish to the year was a harbinger of things to come. He’ll likely move up to High-A ball but could very well spend the full season at that level unless he really lights the world on fire.

The Career Outlook: Starling has the raw tools to be a star but he has mechanical adjustments that need to be made to unlock that potential. A former football star in high school, he also needs reps and at-bats to further his approach and pitch recognition.

#9 Jason Adam | 50/AA (P)

21 33 33 173.0 178 16 7.80 3.17 4.99 4.00

The Year in Review: Statistically speaking, it was an underwhelming season for Adam in Double-A. His ERA sat above 5.00 and he allowed 153 hits in 144.0 innings of work. The right-hander had stronger results after the regular season ended when he attended the Arizona Fall League.

The Scouting Report: Adam has a durable, strong frame and his fastball works up into the mid 90s. It’s his lack of reliable secondary offerings, though, that keeps him from finding more success. The right-hander’s four-pitch mix also includes a slider, curveball and changeup, and two of those offerings need to improve for him to stick as a starter. He also needs improved fastball command and to work down in the zone a little more consistently.

The Year Ahead: Adam may return to Double-A to open the year, although it comes down to the pitching depth ahead of him at the Triple-A level. He needs to start making some strides with his secondary offerings and his overall command.

The Career Outlook: As it stands right now, it looks like Adam may end up in the back end of a big league bullpen. If things click, though, he has the ceiling of a No. 3 starter.

#10 Orlando Calixte | 50/AA (SS)

21 592 131 27 9 43 146 15 .243 .301 .362 .298

The Year in Review: Calixte’s offense appeared to be waking up in 2012 but it went back into a deep slumber in 2013 when he moved to Double-A from High-A ball. He swung and missed at a high rate and piled up 131 strikeouts in 123 games. He also saw his power output dip significantly when his slugging percentage went from .444 to .368.

The Scouting Report: The young Dominican is a flashy defender who should develop into a plus fielder at the big league level. He has good range and a strong arm to go along with excellent actions. At the plate, he needs to improve his pitch recognition and become more patient, which will provide him with better pitches to hit. When he makes contact, he can put a charge in the ball and could hit 30+ doubles and 10-15 home runs in his prime.

The Year Ahead: Calixte may have to return to Double-A to open up the 2014 season but a hot start to the year could push him to Triple-A. With incumbent shortstop Alcides Escobar potentially signed through 2017, it may be a while before the Dominican gets a shot at playing every day.

The Career Outlook: The 21-year-old shortstop has a chance to play every day based on the strength of his defense but he may end up as a slick-fielding back-up infielder capable of playing multiple positions.

The Next Five:

11. Elier Hernandez, OF: A big ticket international signee from 2011, Hernandez repeated advanced-rookie ball for a second year and saw his OPS jump from .536 to .790. He also hit more than .300 but continued to hinder his ultimate success with an overly-aggressive approach and poor pitch recognition. Just 19, Hernandez has the raw skills to develop into a dynamic player but he’s definitely a long-term project.

12. Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B: Cuthbert, 21, keeps showing flashes of his potential but he has yet to put everything together for a full season. To date, the third baseman’s best season saw him post an OPS of .742. The good news from 2013 is that he started to drive the ball more consistently and slugged 37 doubles (to go with eight homers). Defensively, he fields most of what he gets to but there are concerns over his range.

13. Sam Selman, LHP: The hard-throwing southpaw features a four-pitch repertoire but command and control issues could force him to the bullpen nonetheless. He walked 85 batters in 125.1 innings in High-A ball in 2013 — but was difficult to hit (88 base knocks). His second best pitch is his slider. Selman made some improvements in the second half of the year — it was his first full season in pro ball — so he’ll almost certainly be given another opportunity to stick as a starter.

14. Zane Evans, C: Drafted out of Georgia Tech with a fourth round selection in 2013, Evans had an outstanding pro debut with the bat by hitting .352 with a .931 OPS in 41 games. Both a pitcher and catcher in college, the young player is still raw on defense but he has the potential to become average, if not better, behind the dish. As a pitcher he could throw in the mid-90s and that arm strength also helps him control the running game as a catcher.

15. Chris Dwyer, LHP: Dwyer made 28 starts in Triple-A in 2013 but his future could find him in a big-league bullpen. The southpaw’s stuff hasn’t held up to the rigors of pro ball and he battled thyroid issues in 2012. Both his command and control need significant polish to succeed as a starter. Focusing on his fastball/curveball combination in shorter stints could help his stuff play up.

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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PP Jutz
9 years ago

Manaea is a lefty