Evaluating the 2016 Prospects: Kansas City Royals

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The Royals’ farm system has taken a lot of hits in the past couple years as the organization sought to augment the parent club with pieces for a pair of postseason runs. Though there’s a lack of sure-fire impact talent, they have a nice group of prospects who possess the floor of a nice complementary player and reasonable upside. At the end of writing this list, I came away more impressed with their minor league players than I thought I would. There’s a lot to like on the pitching side in particular, though they have a lot of bats who could be excellent additions to their big league lineup. Overall, you can see the influence their big league philosophy has on the types of players they target, with a lot of solid defensive talents who possess good speed.

Some surprises on the list include keeping Kyle Zimmer at the top. The reports I’ve heard give Zimmer a great chance at getting a full, healthy season in this year, and his potential as a frontline starter hasn’t gone away. Raul Adalberto Mondesi slips into the 45+ FV group for me because I want to see him turn his tools into in-game production before totally buying in, but the potential there is as good as anyone in the system. I project Foster Griffin and Ryan O’Hearn higher than most, as I like a lot of what they both bring to the table, though Griffin is much more unproven at this stage.

Here’s the primer for the series and my scouting thoughts in general. The grades I put on players heavily weight the functionality of each tool in game situations, rather than just pure tool grades. Here is a table to understand the position player grades:

Scouting Grades in Context: Hitters
Grade Tool Is Called Batting Average HR ISO Baserunning Runs Fielding Runs
80 80 0.320 40 0.300 12 30
75 0.310 35-40 0.275 10 25
70 Plus Plus 0.300 30-35 0.250 8 20
65 0.290 27-30 0.225 6 15
60 Plus 0.280 23-27 0.200 4 10
55 Above Average 0.270 19-22 0.175 2 5
50 Average 0.260 15-18 0.150 0 0
45 Below Average 0.250 12-15 0.125 -2 -5
40 0.240 8-12 0.100 -4 -10
35 0.230 5-8 0.075 -6 -15
30 0.220 3-5 0.050 -8 -20

As well as one to understand what the overall grades approximate:

Scouting Grades in Context: Overall
Grade Hitter Starting Pitcher Relief Pitcher WAR
80 Top 1-2 #1 Starter —- 7
75 Top 2-3 #1 —- 6
70 Top 5 #1/2 —- 5
65 All-Star #2/3 —- 4
60 Plus #3 High Closer 3
55 Above Avg #3/4 Mid Closer 2.5
50 Avg Regular #4 Low CL/High SU 2
45 Platoon/Util #5 Low Setup 1.5
40 Bench Swing/Spot SP Middle RP 1
35 Emergency Call-Up Emergency Call-Up Emergency Call-Up 0
30 *Organizational *Organizational *Organizational -1

One other difference in the way I’ll be communicating scouting grades to you is the presence of three numbers on each tool instead of just two. The first number is the current grade. The second number is the likely future grade; or, if you prefer percentiles, call this the 50th percentile projection. The third number is the ceiling grade, or 90th percentile projection, to help demonstrate the volatility and raw potential of a tool. I feel this gives readers a better sense of the possible outcomes a player could achieve, and more information to understand my thoughts on the likelihood of reaching those levels.

In the biographical information, level refers to where they finished the year, unless they were sent down for injury rehab or other extraneous reasons. Ages are listed as of April 1, 2016. You can also find each player’s previous rank from Kiley’s list last year. Below, Dave Cameron shares his thoughts on the general state of the organization. Returning for his popular cameo, Carson Cistulli picks his favorite fringe prospect toward the end of the list. Next up will be the Los Angeles Angels.

Organizational Overview
As the two-time defending American League champions, and now reigning World Series champions, it’s a pretty good time to be a Kansas City Royal. The team’s young core has matured into a collection of quality players, and now has a couple more years before free agency disassembles what the franchise has built. Their decision to go for it the last few years, combined with the lower draft picks that come from winning, have left them without the same kind of talent pipeline in the minors, but there’s enough talent at the big league roster that they shouldn’t need the farm system to do more than supplement the roster over the next few years. Longer term, the Royals will have to figure out how long they’re going to fight to keep this particular window open, but they should be able to put up a fight in the AL Central for the next two years at least.

50+ FV Prospects

Video courtesy of Legends Baseball
1. Kyle Zimmer, RHP
Current Level/Age: AA/24.5, 6’3/215, R/R
Acquired: Drafted 5th overall (1st round) in 2012 out of Univ of San Francisco by KC for $3 million bonus
Previous Rank: 4

Getting healthy is the biggest key for Zimmer’s future. He’s had a list of injuries not limited to his arm, though the most recent was for shoulder surgery that caused him to miss the first part of the 2015 season. It’s a bit perplexing, because he doesn’t have the typical hard-throwing high-effort delivery you would expect from an oft-injured hurler. Apart from some mild abruptness in his arm’s finish, and being a little too quick to come off his back heel if you’re being picky, there’s nothing that screams out as an injury concern.

Zimmer threw out of the bullpen for part of the year as he built up his stamina — a role he might revisit in the future should he experience any more serious injuries. The Royals are planning to keep him in the rotation for the time being, however, where his ceiling is undeniably high. His fastball primarily works in the 92-94 range, though he has a quick arm and some deception that makes it play higher. His curveball has a legitimate 70 ceiling. His slider and changeup are both worthy options, right around average potential for each.

Expecting Zimmer to move to the bullpen is a reasonable thought, but there’s no way the Royals do that unless he absolutely proves he cannot handle a full season of innings in the rotation. I’m discounting his grades slightly due to the presumed risk of getting hurt again, but Zimmer’s upside is working near the top of a rotation if he’s right physically.

Royals contacts are quick to note this has been his first normal offseason as a professional. He made some changes to his offseason regimen to stay loose and flexible, and will enter 2016 with no limitations. He is unlikely to make the club out of spring training, but the talk is having him up by May or June.

Fastball: 60/60/65 Curveball: 60/65/70 Slider: 45/50/55 Changeup: 45/50/50 Command: 50/50/55
Overall: 55/60/70

Video courtesy of Minor League Baseball
2. Miguel Almonte, RHP
Current Level/Age: MLB/23.0, 6’4/201, R/R
Acquired: Signed in November 2010 out of Dominican Republic by KC for $25,000 bonus
Previous Rank: 5

Almonte has a big fastball with excellent movement that he can use to blow by hitters or get ground balls when he spots it down in the zone. He also throws a changeup with excellent fade that could be a plus or better pitch if he can continue sharpening his command. His low three-quarters arm slot has some worried about lefties having an easier time hitting him, but he hasn’t shown much of a platoon split in his professional career so far. His quality changeup surely helps keep opposite-handed hitters on their toes. Almonte also shows a biting curveball that occasionally looks like a plus offering, but he has a noticeably higher arm slot on it that keeps its potential on the low side.

Almonte debuted in the Royals’ bullpen in 2015, where he could end up in a few years as a potential dominant closer-type. Though his command is still on the wrong side of average, his explosive three-pitch mix finds the strike zone often enough that he needs to stay in the rotation until hitters prove he can’t. He has a clean arm action with a strong body to support his mid- to upper-90s velocity, and his inconsistent command seems to be a product of finding a feel for his pitches rather than an obvious athletic issue. I think there’s enough upside with his command to give him number-three starter upside, though he’s more likely to settle in a little below that.

Fastball: 60/60/65 Curveball: 45/50/55 Changeup: 55/60/60+ Command: 40/45/45+
Overall: 40/50+/55-60

3. Foster Griffin, LHP
Current Level/Age: A/20.7, 6’3/200, R/L
Acquired: Drafted 28th overall (1st round) in 2014 out of Florida HS by KC for $1.925 million bonus
Previous Rank: 8

Griffin was the second pitcher the Royals took in the first round of the 2014 draft, Brandon Finnegan being the first. Through his first two seasons in the Royals’ system, his numbers haven’t caught up to his potential yet. That shouldn’t discourage any fans hoping he pans out as a starting pitcher. He has an excellent, athletic delivery with a smooth arm action and clean follow through. His command at present may only be a 45, but the ease of his movements on the mound and the feel for his offspeed stuff hints at a ceiling at least a full grade above that.

His fastball only works in the low-90s, but shows decent life and command to both sides of the plate. His curve and changeup both have above-average to plus potential. His progress will depend on how he develops as he physically matures. Specifically, gaining more lower-half strength will help stabilize the landing of his stride leg and go a long way toward gaining release point consistency.

It’s very early in Griffin’s career, and he doesn’t have the statistical results yet to make good on his draft-day promise. Still, I’m optimistic about his future as a big league starter. He checks all the important boxes with room for physical growth, demonstrated command with even better potential and three pitches that all flash above-average. Expect to see his numbers take off when things begin to click for him, which could be as soon as this season.

Fastball: 50/55/60 Curveball: 45/50/55+ Changeup: 45/55/60 Command: 45/50/55+
Overall: 35/50/60

45+ FV Prospects

4. Raul Mondesi, SS, VIDEO

I get the hype surrounding Mondesi. He’s a legitimately solid defensive shortstop with some raw power that has shown up in games a little bit. The Royals challenged him dramatically with his promotions, though his biggest needs for improvement are on the offensive side, where competition level changes drastically across minor league levels. I worry he may have missed his window of being able to work out his approach issues and get comfortable at the plate, but he has the talent that you hope will help him figure things out. One team source I spoke with confirmed that the talk around Mondesi this year is needing to see the production to match the crazy good tools.

His base-running and defensive contributions are near locks to sit at the plus or better level in the big leagues. He has smooth actions at short, repositioning himself quickly to make accurate throws with his plus arm. At the plate, however, Mondesi has had trouble corralling his tendencies to chase pitches out of the zone, and he doesn’t have the elite contact skills to make that approach work. He also tends to swing out on his front foot without a lot of lower-half recruitment, but his hands work well enough, particularly in his lefty swing, to hit a fair amount of line drives.

He has shown somehwat surprising power for his build, having the ability to lift balls from the left side to all fields. Some scouts have him down for 60 raw power. It isn’t a big power-oriented swing, and I see him more likely maxing out with just below average power. His right-handed swing is much choppier and awkward, which contributes to his relative lack of power on that side of the plate. Since he will spend most of his time facing right-handers, it isn’t a big deal, but it does limit his total power potential to some extent.

Though Mondesi is more than capable of manning short and creating opportunities for his team on the bases, his future value is tied to his bat. I’m not certain he will be able to improve his plate discipline or his contact against upper minor league pitching, but the Royals have his ear when it comes to making some alterations. Without much potential for an increased walk rate, Mondesi needs to figure out some way of working in a more selective approach without taking away from his aggressiveness. He has the defensive capabilities to be an impact player at short or center, but it all depends on his bat coming around.

Hit: 35/40/45 Power: 35/40/50 Run: 60/65/70 Field: 60/65/70 Throw: 60/60/60
Overall: 35/45/65

5. Ryan O’Hearn, 1B, VIDEO

This dude can rake. Put a ball in the middle of the plate, and he has plenty of ability to deposit it in the seats. Right now, the problem is he seems to know he’s a power hitter. His eyes light up when he gets that pitch down the middle, and he tries to do too much with it, muscling up and pulling off the ball. His swing is geared toward driving fly balls out to all fields, and he has the strength to support a potential plus-plus power tool in the future.

Strikeouts may be a problem for him as he progresses, though it relates more to his anxious approach on hittable pitches than a recognition or selectivity issue. While he’s not going to be a high-contact hitter, I feel confident he will calm his approach and stabilize his strikeout rate. He walks a decent amount as well, and it’s not out of the question that his all-fields approach could turn into an above-average hit tool as he settles in. He’s stubborn, in that he thinks he can hit everything the pitcher can throw, sometimes trying to go after a guy’s best pitch rather than waiting for something easier to drive. The Royals are working with him to channel that stubbornness into a good two-strike approach.

He’s likely a decent first baseman with some more work, though the Royals have also tried him out in the outfield, where he is a bit of a stretch. Internal evaluators see a bat that could move quickly though, and want him to have at least some comfort at another position to get him in the lineup if needed. Expect him to be in Double-A by mid-2016 at the latest, with a clear path to the big leagues if his approach matures.

Hit: 40/45/55 Power: 55/60-65/70 Run: 40/40/45 Field: 40/40/45 Throw: 50/50/50
Overall: 35/45/60+

6. Bubba Starling, OF, VIDEO

Starling had his best year in terms of rate stats of his minor league career in 2015, showing signs that he will be able to tap into his raw power while managing his strikeouts. A hamstring injury and a collision with the outfield wall limited his at-bats, but the year was a huge success for his development. He still looks robotic at the plate sometimes, and his checkered history of performance in the past still keeps me from buying into his chances of developing into more than a bench player. However, his supreme athleticism keeps his ceiling interesting, and another year or two of continued improvement smoothing out his actions at the plate would make him jump up this list instantly.

Internal evaluations of his defense have him as the best center fielder in the system, topping even Lorenzo Cain’s ability. Cain, as you may know, has been a near plus-plus defensive performer over the last three years. As disappointing as some may be about Starling’s offense, his defense will give him a job with a Royals team who greatly values guys who can adeptly cover their vast outfield. If he can find a way to get his bat even close to average, he’s an All-Star outfielder.

Team sources praise him for his willingness to learn, and claim his leg kick looks cleaner and more athletic this spring now after developing a better understanding of his swing the last couple years. I’m comfortable grading his ceiling as an above-average full-time center fielder, but it’s completely contingent on proving he can make contact at a decent rate against advanced pitching. His 2016 at-bats will be something to which I pay a lot of attention, and hopefully last season is a sign of things to come and not a blip on the radar.

Hit: 35/40/45 Power: 40/45/50 Run: 55/55/60 Field: 60/65/70 Throw: 60/60/60
Overall: 35/45+/60

7. Nolan Watson, RHP, VIDEO

Watson was taken just 12 picks after Ashe Russell in last year’s draft. He has, in my opinion, the higher ceiling and the lower floor, with more advanced pitchability but less present stuff. His delivery and arm are very clean, apart from some collapsing of his landing leg that leads to command issues at times. And really, even though he’s added some strength since being drafted, he has more physical development left in front of him that should clean that up nicely.

His fastball was mostly right around 90 going into his last high school season, but kicked up a bit and flashed mid-90s right before the draft. It has good run and he shows some ability to spot it when his mechanics stay consistent. Both his slider and curveball show above-average potential, though the command of both will need to follow his physical development in order to stay on the starter path. Though his changeup is presently his worst pitch, it’s promising that he throws it with the same arm speed and shows some feel for getting good fade on it.

So in total, with four projectable pitches and strength gains hopefully improving his command, Watson starts to look like a pretty good candidate for a mid-rotation job. Like nearly all high school pitchers, it may take a couple years to start seeing where he will settle in, but if I had to bet on one of the Royals young hurlers taking a big step forward, it would be him.

Fastball: 50/55+/60 Curveball: 40/50/55 Slider: 40/50/55 Changeup: 40/45/50+ Command: 40/50/55
Overall: 35/45/60

8. Ashe Russell, RHP, VIDEO

Russell was the first high school pitcher drafted last June, possessing tremendous arm speed and a sharp slider. He’s very raw currently, both mechanically and with his command, but he has a fairly high ceiling if they come around. He also has a changeup that has not been tested much, but will be needed to progress as a starter.

His delivery shows good balance, though his arm tends to lag behind his body and get away from him in his low three-quarters slot. The sequencing contributes to his subpar present command, and you also have to worry about his elbow long-term if he continues throwing the same way. He’s still young and shows good athleticism, so Russell will likely make strides to take some stress off his arm and sharpen his command. He has a long enough way to go that I hesitate to put higher than a mid-rotation ceiling on him, but it all depends on the adjustments he is able to make in a pro setting.

Fastball: 50/55/65 Slider: 45/55/60 Changeup: 35/40/50 Command: 40/45/45+
Overall: 35/45+/55

9. Chase Vallot, C, VIDEO

Vallot has the ability to hit 25-30 homers in the big leagues, but it’s going to take a lot of work keeping his strikeouts in check. He has made up for his low contact rate so far by walking at an excellent rate, but we will have to see how he transitions into facing upper minor league pitching before drawing strong conclusions about his bat. If he can somehow maintain a similar on-base rate, even a strikeout rate above 30% won’t keep him from being an above-average bat with the power he has.

He also has much to do behind the plate, looking a little shaky with his receiving, blocking and transfers out of the glove. Sources closer to Vallot believe he can be an average catcher, and he does get great reviews about his makeup and work ethic. I’m optimistic about his power translating to higher levels with an excellent fly-ball swing plane and some adjustability in his actions. The pitch recognition and contact will be his make-or-break skill, since he should have enough bat to move off catcher if his defense doesn’t develop, assuming the K rate stabilizes.

Hit: 35/40/50 Power: 45/55-60/65 Run: 45/40/40 Field: 40/45/50 Throw: 45/50/55
Overall: 30/45/60

10. Garrett Davila, LHP, VIDEO

Davila is an intriguing high school draftee taken in the fourth round last year. They Royals decided to shut him down for the summer to address his strength, as he came in with a very young build. He was throwing 94-95 early in his high school season but started dropping off by his fourth or fifth start, so they wanted to protect his arm by giving him time to get more physical. After Davila added 25 pounds between then and now, they believe they have a steal on their hands.

His delivery and arm action are very good, and he has some pitchability with a solid fastball/curveball/changeup mix. We will see how he does jumping into pro ball this year, but he’s definitely one to keep your eyes on, particularly if he can hold his top end velocity now with more strength. Because of how young his body was, it’s hard to get too excited without seeing him in professional games, but his 55 ceiling grade could jump up quickly by next offseason.

Fastball: 45/55/60 Curveball: 40/50/55 Changeup: 35/40/50 Command: 40/50/55
Overall: 30/45/55+

11. Hunter Dozier, 3B, VIDEO

Dozier has real talent, an objectively nice swing and plenty of physical ability at third base. He got too enamored of trying to hit home runs in 2015, and ended up losing a lot of the athleticism that made him so likable as a prospect. A team source said he came into the year with too lofty of a swing path, and it really hindered his progression from the start of spring training. By my eye, I didn’t think the swing changes were terrible, but I agree he looked like he was trying to do too much. Most of his issues stem from there being a lot of tension in his actions, something that wasn’t as prevalent in previous years.

Bottom line is he has the talent to be an above-average starting third baseman, but continuing his process from last season will keep him from reaching that ceiling. Royals sources say he has looked much better in the early going of spring training, and hope he gets back to being more of a gaps hitter with good contact rates like they envisioned before last season. I’m willing to keep his grades relatively high because of his talent. However, the changes to his swing will have to work out for him to shed his current bench or platoon player path.

Hit: 40/40/45 Power: 40/45/55 Run: 45/45/45 Field: 45/50/55 Throw: 60/60/60
Overall: 40/45/55

12. Scott Blewett, RHP, VIDEO

Blewett had a good performance in the South Atlantic League by any measure but earned run average. His strikeouts are a bit lacking, which is to be somewhat expected from a young pitcher with a good fastball but undeveloped offspeed pitches. At 6-foot-6, he has the frame many expect to produce mid-90s velocity with more regularity as he matures, but he’s already pretty well filled out. He also has a bit of a tighter look to his upper body as his arm comes through that may limit how much mass he can add without getting too muscled up.

He has a curveball that flashes plus down in the zone, but it lacks the same bite when he has to get one over the plate. He also has a changeup that is well below average, though reports say he has improved it to the point that it often flashes average. The increase in strike-throwing last year is promising, though there is plenty of work to do to get his location and command more finely tuned. There is some high-end upside in his reach, but for now he still is more likely to work out of the bullpen or at the back end of the rotation.

Fastball: 50/55/65 Curveball: 45/50/55+ Changeup: 35/40/50 Command: 40/45/50
Overall: 35/45/55

13. Matthew Strahm, LHP, VIDEO

Strahm made it back to form from Tommy John surgery in a big way last year with a half season of very strong performances in the High-A rotation. He commands his fastball down in the zone well, and his present average curveball gives hitters a very hard time making contact. He doesn’t have the greatest changeup yet, and he needs to be tested against higher-level hitters, but his command and solid two-pitch mix give him upside in the middle of the Royals rotation.

His future grades are not higher currently because of some mechanical issues he has to work out, notably his arm action that gets a little stiff at times. If it’s just a remnant of his elbow injury and continues to improve, he’s another candidate to jump up into the top end of this list. A solid bullpen role is not out of the question if he can’t continue to make adjustments.

Fastball: 50/55/55 Curveball: 50/55/60 Changeup: 40/45/50 Command: 50/55/55
Overall: 40/45/50-55

14. Pedro Fernandez, RHP, VIDEO

Fernandez is an interesting young hurler with a big arm and a good changeup, which one team source compared to Miguel Almonte’s bread-and-butter pitch. He typically throws a lot of strikes, but has gone in and out of shying away from contact. He looked like he felt his through releasing the ball when he struggled in High-A to close out the year, but he has shown much better conviction and trust in his stuff as recently as the first half of 2015.

His breaking ball is an inconsistent, slurvy type pitch that sits in the mid- to high-70s, and projects to be a below-average pitch. The Royals had him working on tightening it up in the fall to be more like a cutter, so that bears watching this year. Developing a projectable breaking ball would go a long way toward confirming his future as a starter. His fastball/changeup combo gets him in the door of the 45+ FV group, and if the Royals can get him working an average breaking ball into the mix, he has decent upside as a mid-rotation starter.

Fastball: 50/55/60 Slider: 35/40/45 Changeup: 50/55/60 Command: 45/50/50+
Overall: 35/45/50-55

15. Eric Skoglund, LHP, VIDEO

Skoglund is a 6-foot-7 lefty with an easy-going delivery and some deception. He throws strikes with all three pitches, though at least some evaluators think he may throw too many strikes and features an easy rhythm with which hitters can get comfortable. He was in line to be promoted to Double-A before getting hurt last season, and likely finds his way there very early in 2016. His changeup projects to be his best offspeed pitch with around average potential. He commands his curveball well but he needs to add a bit more bite to it. He is still very svelte, and his body awareness is good enough that added strength would go a long way in the projectability department.

Fastball: 50/50/55 Curveball: 40/45/50 Changeup: 45/50/55 Command: 50/55/60
Overall: 40/45/50+

16. Brandon Downes, OF, VIDEO

Downes has an intriguing power/speed combination that should continue to play at higher levels of the minors, but he needs to improve his plate discipline and chase rate to make an impact in the big leagues. He swings across his body a bit which mostly limits his home run power to his pull side, but he has the bat path necessary to consistently put balls in the air, which plays well with his plus above-average to plus raw power. I think he ends up in right field in the end, but he has the tools and reads to continue playing center field for a while.

Hit: 35/40/45 Power: 50/55/55Run: 55/55/55 Field: 50/50/55 Throw: 55/55/55
Overall: 35/45/50+

17. Glenn Sparkman, RHP, VIDEO

Sparkman started a nice follow-up year to his strong 2014 performance with four promising starts in Double-A before going down with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. He has a lot of deception with his delivery, using a slow-to-fast tempo that is tough for hitters to time up. The Royals prefer pitchers focusing on one breaking ball during development, though there is ongoing discussion over whether his slider or curve is more projectable. He’s not a big power guy but commands his fastball very well. Assuming he comes back fully healthy, there’s a chance he turns his deception and command into middle to back-end starter role.

Fastball: 50/55/55 Slider: 40/45/50 Curveball: 45/50/55 Changeup: 45/50/50 Command: 45/50/55
Overall: 40/45/50

18. Josh Staumont, RHP, VIDEO

Staumont has one of the best pure arms in the system, with one team source likening his arm speed to that of Yordano Ventura. He has work to do on improving his direction and speeding up his tempo to unlock more of his athleticism, as he can get too mechanical at times. He shows an excellent ability to spin his breaking ball, while a seldom used changeup is also in his repertoire that will help determine his future role.

He will be a starter early in his minor league career to get reps and experience, but the Royals are open to him staying there if his command allows it. He has some stiffness to his arm action and follow through that likely limits his command ceiling, but I’m interested to see how it develops after working with the team’s coaching staff.

Fastball: 55/60/70 Curveball: 45/45/50 Changeup: 35/40/45 Command: 40/40-45/45
Overall: 40/45/50

19. Reymond Fuentes, OF, VIDEO

Fuentes continues to show promise as a at least a fantastic fourth outfielder in the future, but injuries have been a regular hindrance of his progress. He has done well to reduce his strikeouts as he has climbed the minor league ladder, but he is predominately a ground-ball hitter and not much of a power threat. Leave a ball up in the zone and he has the bat speed to put it in the seats, but Fuentes will have to show consistency with his plate discipline and contact against major league pitching to profile as a starting option. He is at worst a plus runner and can really go get the ball in center field.

Hit: 45/50/55 Power: 30/35/35 Run: 60/60/65 Field: 60/60/60 Throw: 45/45/50
Overall: 40/45/50

20. Alec Mills, RHP, VIDEO

Mills had an excellent season last year in High-A, and heads into this spring in big league camp. He throws a ton of strikes and is a great competitor, though his stuff is more on the average side. As a late pick out of the 22nd round in 2012, he has thrived despite the lack of high expectations, but either his stuff or his command will need to go to the next level to be a true candidate for a major league rotation.

Fastball: 50/55/55 Curveball: 40/45/45+ Changeup: 45/50/55 Command: 45/50/55
Overall: 40/45/45-50

40+ FV Prospects

21. Jorge Bonifacio, OF, VIDEO

Bonifacio enjoyed the best power production of his minor league career in 2015, rekindling hopes that he can turn into a major power threat in the middle of a big league lineup. He has a swing built for launching fly balls, but it’s a one-piece swing that has him out in front hooking balls into left-field foul territory with regularity. It also doesn’t help that his pitch recognition isn’t the greatest, though he’s patient enough to draw some walks and keep his on-base percentage from completely tanking.

Defensively he fits best in a corner spot with enough arm that he could be a decent right fielder. His speed has waned a bit, but he uses it well on the bases to be around an average runner. His future is all about his bat, and it’s tough to see him greatly improving his hit tool to be a viable starting option. He does have some potential as a lefty-mashing platoon partner, where he won’t have as tough a time with offspeed offerings.

Hit: 35/40/45 Power: 45/50/55+ Run: 50/45+/50 Field: 50/50/55 Throw: 60/60/60
Overall: 35/40-45/50

22. Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B/1B, VIDEO

Cuthbert made his big league debut last season, but despite a solid year in Triple-A to go along with it, it’s tough to figure out who he is as a player. He has the physical tools to be an All-Star, but those tools haven’t translated into in-game success. He has taken time to adjust to every level, but ends up putting up decent offensive numbers across the board once he settles in. He still has the upside of being a solid platoon or lower-tier starting option at third, given enough time to earn a spot there. It’s more likely he ends up coming off the bench and spelling the regulars at third and first base. His range is the only thing keeping him from playing other positions, while his hands and arm are excellent. He fits in fine at third base.

Hit: 40/45/50 Power: 40/45/45 Run: 50/45+/50 Field: 50/50/50 Throw: 60/60/60
Overall: 40/40+/45

23. Marten Gasparini, SS, VIDEO

Gasparini has similar raw tools to Mondesi above, though the emphasis is on raw. He’s an excellent runner, projecting to be around a plus contributor on the base paths. He has the physical ability to stick at short, but has shown some expected immaturity at the position, make errors in bunches rather than consistently throughout his season. His swing from the left side is more natural and shows some pop with good hand-eye coordination, while his right-handed swing results in more power but is a bit more stilted looking. When he adds some strength, he has the swing path to support decent power potential.

He’s a good few years away from contributing, but the ability is there to be an impact player in multiple facets of the game. An international signing out of Italy, he speaks English well but culturally it has been an adjustment for him. The Royals are working to keep him from being too analytical, and believe his intelligence will end up being an asset for him rather than a hindrance like it can be at times presently.

Hit: 30/40/50 Power: 35/45/55 Run: 55/60/65 Field: 40/50/55 Throw: 50/55/60
Overall: 30/40/55+

24. Alfredo Escalera-Maldonado, OF, VIDEO

Maldonado is a young outfielder who held the distinction of being the youngest player ever taken in the amateur draft at 17 years and 3.5 months old. He has a quick bat that gets in and out of the zone very fast, so the Royals are trying to get some more extension through the zone out of him. His pitch recognition needs work, though he showed some improvements last season that went away when he was promoted. He put on some weight in the last couple years that may keep him from sticking in center field, though he reportedly lost most of it this offseason and could remain there for the foreseeable future.

Hit: 35/40/50 Power: 35/40/50 Run: 55/50/55 Field: 50/55/55 Throw: 50/50/50
Overall: 30/40/55

25. Elier Hernandez, OF, VIDEO

Hernandez has a lot going for him in the tool department, but like many of the guys in the system, he is struggling to adapt them to professional pitching. For him in particular, it’s all about pitch recognition. He has trouble with offspeed pitches and will chase out of the zone often. He makes enough contact to keep his strikeouts in check, though that may be a bigger struggle as he climbs. I really like his swing when he’s on time, and if he could show even a little improvement with his plate discipline, he’s an excellent candidate for late-developing power. He is young still, so his current projection is mild but not lacking in potential.

Hit: 35/40/50 Power: 35/45/55 Run: 45/45/45 Field: 45/45/50 Throw: 50/50/55
Overall: 30/40/50

26. Christian Binford, RHP, VIDEO

The 2015 season was a disappointing one for Binford as he tried to do too much on the mound, getting away from what he does well and leaving a lot of pitches over the plate. He has good sink on a fastball he throws 89-93 mph that could allow him to be a reliable ground-ball pitcher if he can regain his previous form. He doesn’t have a strikeout type of breaking ball, but his slider is serviceable and he can throw a curveball to mix things up. He’s a likely middle reliever, with back of the rotation work a possibility if the need arises on a big league staff.

Fastball: 50/50/55 Slider: 45/50/50 Curveball: 40/40/40 Changeup: 40/40/45 Command: 45/50/50
Overall: 40/40/45

Quick Hits
LHP Brian Flynn (VIDEO) lost another season to injury in 2015, this time a lat problem, but there is still hope he can bring his former big stuff to the Royals bullpen in 2016. LHP Sam Selman (VIDEO) has a jerky delivery with a lot of deception but also timing and separation issues. He throws in the upper-90s, so if he can get consistent he’s an excellent option out of the bullpen. RHP Luke Farrell is the son of manager John Farrell; he put up great numbers last year in High-A and Double-A, but it’s likely his best-case scenario is a middle-relief role. RHP Yunior Marte has a low- to mid-90s fastball with a good changeup, though his command requires a lot of work. He won the organizational award for work ethic, which he will need to cash in on his impressive physical tools.

2B/SS Ramon Torres (VIDEO) continues to hit and play respectable defense around the infield. Though he doesn’t have any one tool that really stands out, it’s looking more likely each year that he carves out a bench role of some kind, but with a ground ball-oriented offensive approach, he needs to keep proving he can find holes in the infield. C/DH Zane Evans (VIDEO) is a strong dude with some raw power, but his spin-and-chop swing results in poor lift and carry on his batted balls. His defensive work is relatively poor, so he needs the bat to carry him. OF Anderson Miller (VIDEO) has a downward swing with a lot of top hand, but his hand-eye coordination is good and he’s a smart guy. He isn’t a plus runner but may still be able to stay in center field.

Cistulli’s Guy
Jose Martinez, OF

Kansas City possesses a number of compelling fringe types. Ramon Torres, mentioned above by Farnsworth, features the sort of skill set — excellent contact ability, the capacity to handle an infield defensive spot — which immediately lends itself to major-league competence, if not stardom. Austin Bailey, meanwhile — who’s likely to begin the season with High-A Wilmington — is the late-round college equivalent of Torres. Brett Eibner, Angel Franco, Corey Toups: all possess some promising combination of offensive and defensive value.

For what Martinez lacks in defensive ability — he’s pretty much confined to an outfield corner — he compensates for it by way of offensive skill and, to the degree it can be said of a player entering his age-27 season, projection. Martinez was the best player in the Pacific Coast League last year according to a rough minor-league approximation of WAR provided by StatCorner. Nor was that performance the product entirely of statistical variance. While the line was certainly buoyed by a .434 BABIP, Martinez also benefited from his typical command of the strike zone — recording strikeout and walk rates of 12.1% and 13.9%, respectively — while also posting a .179 isolated-power figure.

Nor does any of this recognize his most notable trait — namely, his height. Martinez is 6-foot-7. Over the last decade, only 10 seasons have been logged by players 6-foot-7 or higher. All told, players around his height — which is to say, from 6-foot-6 to 6-foot-8 — have recorded a .223 isolated-power mark in 17,750 plate appearances. All of which is to say that Martinez quite possibly hasn’t reached his power ceiling yet. Paired with an above-average penchant for contact, that conspires to produce an interesting offensive profile.

Here’s Martinez exhibiting some of his extant power, homering to the opposite field this past May:

Dan is Fangraphs Lead Prospect Analyst, living in New York City. He played baseball for four years at Franklin & Marshall College before attending medical school. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @DWFarnsworth.

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6 years ago

Since a lot of what you’re scouting is swing mechanics (for hitters) and individual pitches (for pitchers), I’d be interested to hear how you account for players changing those mechanics or pitch mixes over time. For example, you hear all the time about pitchers adding a fourth pitch from a pitching coach that takes their game to a new level, and obviously 3 years prior there’s no way you could have scouted it. The examples with swing mechanics may not be as drastic but exist (at least anecdotally) as well.

Do you just adjust for this in the player’s overall value grade in the form of athleticism? Do you think of it as purely scouting the current player, so that a pitcher who adds a new pitch might as well be an entirely different prospect? Thanks!

Shirtless Bartolo Colon
6 years ago
Reply to  Dan Farnsworth

Dan, you are baseball-brilliant!

6 years ago

And he has a cute butt too

Bernie Sanders
6 years ago

Bartolo, how would you like to be my Vice President? I could use a man who is extremely fatuous like yourself.