Kansas City Royals Top 42 Prospects

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Kansas City Royals. Scouting reports were compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. This is the third year we’re delineating between two anticipated relief roles, the abbreviations for which you’ll see in the “position” column below: MIRP for multi-inning relief pitchers, and SIRP for single-inning relief pitchers. The ETAs listed generally correspond to the year a player has to be added to the 40-man roster to avoid being made eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Manual adjustments are made where they seem appropriate, but I use that as a rule of thumb.

A quick overview of what FV (Future Value) means can be found here. A much deeper overview can be found here.

All of the ranked prospects below also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It has more details (and updated TrackMan data from various sources) than this article and integrates every team’s list so readers can compare prospects across farm systems. It can be found here.

Royals Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Maikel Garcia 23.3 MLB SS 2023 50
2 Nick Loftin 24.8 AAA 2B 2024 45
3 Alec Marsh 25.1 MLB SP 2023 45
4 Javier Vaz 22.8 A+ 2B 2024 45
5 Carter Jensen 20.0 A+ C 2026 45
6 Frank Mozzicato 20.0 A+ SP 2026 40+
7 Ben Kudrna 20.4 A SP 2026 40+
8 Gavin Cross 22.4 A+ CF 2026 40+
9 Asbel Gonzalez 17.5 R CF 2029 40+
10 Austin Charles 19.6 A 3B 2028 40+
11 John McMillon 25.4 AA SIRP 2024 40+
12 Chandler Champlain 23.9 AA SP 2024 40+
13 Freddy Fermin 28.1 MLB C 2023 40+
14 Tyler Gentry 24.4 AAA RF 2024 40+
15 Cayden Wallace 21.9 A+ 3B 2026 40+
16 David Sandlin 22.4 A+ SP 2026 40+
17 Will Klein 23.6 AAA SIRP 2024 40+
18 Jonathan Bowlan 26.6 AAA SIRP 2023 40
19 Christian Chamberlain 24.0 AAA SIRP 2024 40
20 Diego Hernandez 22.6 AA CF 2024 40
21 Andrew Hoffmann 23.4 AA SP 2025 40
22 Luinder Avila 21.9 A+ SP 2026 40
23 Noah Cameron 24.0 AA SP 2025 40
24 Steven Zobac 22.7 A SP 2026 40
25 Samad Taylor 25.0 MLB 2B 2023 40
26 Beck Way 23.9 AA SIRP 2025 40
27 Mason Barnett 22.7 A+ MIRP 2026 40
28 Hayden Dunhurst 22.8 A C 2027 40
29 Asa Lacy 24.1 AA SIRP 2025 35+
30 Daniel Vazquez 19.2 A SS 2025 35+
31 Angel Zerpa 23.8 MLB MIRP 2023 35+
32 Austin Cox 26.3 MLB MIRP 2023 35+
33 Anthony Veneziano 25.8 AAA MIRP 2024 35+
34 T.J. Sikkema 24.9 AA MIRP 2024 35+
35 Roni Cabrera 17.9 R LF 2028 35+
36 Jacob Wallace 24.9 AA SIRP 2024 35+
37 James McArthur 26.6 MLB SIRP 2023 35+
38 Jonah Dipoto 26.8 AAA SIRP 2024 35+
39 Steven Cruz 24.0 AA SIRP 2024 35+
40 Samuel Valerio 21.7 A SIRP 2025 35+
41 Anderson Paulino 24.8 A+ SIRP 2025 35+
42 Yunior Marte 19.8 R SP 2028 35+
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50 FV Prospects

1. Maikel Garcia, SS

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Venezuela (KCR)
Age 23.3 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 145 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/60 30/40 30/35 50/50 60/60 60

Garcia entered the Top 100 prospects list last year (he was 66th overall at the end of the season) and was stupidly removed during the offseason. He was quickly promoted to the big leagues this season and accumulated enough at-bats to exhaust rookie eligibility before the Royals list went live, a failure on my part. Garcia has the skill set of a plug-and-play everyday shortstop, but he’s mostly played third base for the Royals because of Bobby Witt Jr.’s presence on the roster. He is an example of a traditionally under-ranked type of player who you could argue I (and my writing partners over the years) over-corrected on for a while, an up-the-middle defender without power, but plus contact and on-base skills.

Garcia has lovely feel to hit and is especially adept at spraying contact to the opposite field, guiding the barrel all over the zone. His in-zone contact rates have been between 84-88% each year since he entered full-season ball in 2019, a magna cum laude tier of bat-to-ball performance. He tends to be late on fastballs, many of which he’s capable of spraying the other way. Garcia’s build gives him great long-term athletic projection and he may yet get stronger deep into his 20s, which might enable him to be more on time for the fastballs that he currently tends to foul off rather than barrel. Even with a great hit tool, Garcia’ patience is arguably his best skill, but unless he develops more power, big league pitchers will attack him in the zone and suppress that skill’s performance.

Defensively, Garcia makes just about everything look absurdly easy at third base even though he doesn’t have a ton of experience there. He has plus-plus hands and actions, a plus arm, and above-average range. I think he’s a superior defensive player to Witt, but I also think you can argue that having Garcia rove the infield with his leather skeleton key helps elevate the way Nicky Lopez and Samad Taylor are deployed. He won’t be a star unless he comes into meaningful power later than most hitters do, but Garcia is a foundational big leaguer who is going to play forever.

45 FV Prospects

2. Nick Loftin, 2B

Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Baylor (KCR)
Age 24.8 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/60 45/45 30/40 55/55 40/55 50

It appears as though the experiment with Loftin in center field has concluded, as he was playing exclusively second and third base before he was shut down with a knee injury at the end of May. There’s a little less defensive versatility here than is ideal for a multi-positional prospect like Loftin, and hopefully the corner outfield becomes part of his skill set over time, but he still has such good feel for contact that he belongs in this FV tier even without a premium position on his scout card. Loftin keeps things incredibly simple at the plate, which keeps him on time for inner-half fastballs. He has a pull-heavy approach and can sometimes pull off of well-located sliders, even ones in the zone, but his overall z-contact rate was a whopping 91% before his injury. He isn’t dangerous all over the zone, but he covers most of it. He’s currently blocked by a host of other young players, some of whom have a similar skill set, but he’s a pretty good bet to be a postseason 40-man add, setting up a debut at some point next year.

3. Alec Marsh, SP

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2019 from Arizona State (KCR)
Age 25.1 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/50 60/60 55/55 40/45 40/45 94-96 / 98

Marsh, who made his big league debut just before list publication, has had a very strange trajectory as a prospect. Once a low-90s pitchability guy at ASU, he bulked up and began to throw harder during the 2020 shutdown. While Marsh was touching 100 mph early on as a pro, his arm strength has since come down into the mid-90s, and lately he’s been sitting 94-96 mph and touching 98 with a (ready, this is weird) flat-angled, high-spin sinker. Marsh’s fastball doesn’t hop even though it has the approach angle and spin axis of a fastball that typically does; it has below-average vertical break and might be surprisingly hittable against big league bats. Marsh seems aware of this and has been pitching backwards pretty often in 2023, using all three of his secondaries early in counts before elevating his fastball when he’s ahead. His breaking ball command is quite good, and Marsh’s ability to mix his pitches evenly and do so in pretty much any count makes him rather unpredictable. His approach to pitching, largely a product of his fastball’s vulnerability, makes him a little less efficient than is ideal, but Marsh has the stuff of a contender’s no. 4/5 starter.

4. Javier Vaz, 2B

Drafted: 15th Round, 2022 from Vanderbilt (KCR)
Age 22.8 Height 5′ 9″ Weight 155 Bat / Thr L / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/70 30/30 30/30 60/60 40/50 40

Vaz only played a season and a half at Vanderbilt and may have been hidden under a bushel for even longer than that had 2021 starting left fielder Cooper Davis not gotten injured. Had he played all three seasons at Vandy (he was a community college transfer) and played often, he likely would have been picked much higher than the 15th round. Vaz is the second coming of Tony Kemp, an undersized Vandy Boy bat-to-ball maven who does all the little things well and can play a 2B/LF combo. He has also seen time at shortstop, but he doesn’t have the arm for that. Vaz has also played center field in the pros a couple of times. Enrique Bradfield Jr.’s presence at Vandy kept Vaz in left field while he was in college, so it will be interesting to see how things develop out there if the Royals keep trying it. Twitchy and compact, he is extremely difficult to beat in the strike zone, he runs really well, and his skills are arguably more relevant now due to rule changes that will allow his plus speed to make more of an in-game impact. I’m stuffing him in this update because I buy that he’s going to hit and have positional versatility that allows him to play a ton either as a second-division second base regular or a versatile platoon mate.

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2021 from Park Hill Senior HS (MO) (KCR)
Age 20.0 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr L / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/30 45/55 25/45 45/40 40/50 60

Jensen is going to have a bottom-of-the-barrell hit tool, but so do lots of catchers, and few of them have Jensen’s combination of on-base skills and power potential. He struggles to cover the outer third of the zone and is especially vulnerable to heaters up and away from him, but he’s a real threat to do damage on the inner half of the plate and he already has impressive pop for a hitter his age. He has fantastic breaking ball recognition and is great at letting pitches he can’t handle go by until he has no choice but to offer at them with two strikes. Jensen’s feel for the zone (and for which pitches within the zone are hittable) should allow him to get to his power when he makes contact.

Defensively, Jensen’s ball-blocking needs some work, but he has improved as a receiver and is popping as low as 1.80 seconds, though more often in the 1.90-1.95 range. He’s cleaned up his frame and is much more agile back there now than he was upon first entering pro ball. Catchers take a while to develop and Jensen’s Midwest League numbers aren’t very good, but this FV grade is actually higher than where I had him last year. He has a shot to be a primary catcher down the road.

40+ FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2021 from East Catholic HS (KCR)
Age 20.0 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
30/50 25/55 60/60 30/50 30/50 88-92 / 94

Mozzicato still isn’t throwing all that hard, but he missed Low-A bats (he was promoted to Quad Cities just before list publication) because his fastball has plus-plus vertical break. He has long had the non-velocity foundation to be an impact big league starter if he can throw harder over time. He is a super smooth, athletic, and projectable young lefty whose drop-and-drive delivery creates flat angle and ride on his fastball. His snapdragon curveball has huge 12-to-6 depth, his natural feel for spin could be parlayed into an impact slider eventually, and his gorgeous arm action could also yield an above-average changeup. Despite his projectability, he hasn’t really developed since entering pro ball. His lower half is physically underdeveloped and skinny, he control remains below-average, and no viable third offering has emerged. Mozz is still young, his fastball’s underlying traits give him real breakout potential if he can throw harder, and his curveball is still a dynamic offering, but his skill set as it’s currently constituted looks like a two-pitch reliever’s. There’s been no change to his FV grade since last update, as he remains a good long-term prospect with clear dev avenues that he and the Royals haven’t yet traversed in any way.

7. Ben Kudrna, SP

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2021 from Blue Valley SW HS (KCR)
Age 20.4 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 183 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/50 45/50 50/60 30/50 91-95 / 96

Though he was Kansas City’s 2021 second round pick, Kudrna only got $500,000 less than first rounder Frank Mozzicato and was about as talented, albeit in different ways. Kudrna had more present ability, threw harder, and had a more mature changeup. Counterbalancing that was his relative physical maturity: he was already big and strong, and had less room to add mass and (theoretically) velocity than the prototypical high school pitching prospect. Also like Mozzicato (the two are linked by their draft class and will always be compared), Kudrna has mostly stayed the same since entering pro ball; he had only a fair pro debut in 2022 and was sent back to Low-A to start 2023. He has a well-balanced delivery and generates 92-94 mph heat, touching 96 without effective movement. He’ll likely always have a vulnerable fastball because of its shape and plane, but Kudrna’s secondary stuff carries a lot of water. He creates sink and tailing action on his changeup and is willing to use it against righties, and Kudrna’s slider command is consistent, which allows it to play even though it isn’t especially nasty. Two good secondaries and a big, strapping, inning-eating frame should enable him to pitch at the back of a rotation, and there might be another gear of fastball command yet to arrive that would allow for a slightly better outcome.

8. Gavin Cross, CF

Drafted: 1st Round, 2022 from Virginia Tech (KCR)
Age 22.4 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 55/55 30/50 55/50 30/40 55

Cross was absolutely awful for the first month of the season, and though his strikeout rates have been better of late, they’re still in a scary area for a hitter who pretty much the entire industry thought was a relatively safe college prospect in last year’s draft. Cross has a sub-70% contact rate so far this season, and even as his numbers have improved during the last two months, his contact rates has remained close to that mark. Some of what made Cross a high first round pick last year is still present. He can get on top of high pitches even though his hands load low, and Cross drives them all over the field with power, but he’s also whiffing a lot against pitches right down the middle of the zone. The Midwest League is a bear to hit in early in the season, but it’s concerning that these issues have persisted deeper into the year.

Can he stay in center field? The fact that it’s even a question is probably a sign that the answer is “no.” Cross is a 40-gade runner from home to first, and most big league center fielders were slam dunk defenders as prospects. If Cross ends up in a corner, his hit tool will need to rebound in a huge way for him to be more than just a platoon option. That’d still be a 45, which was Cross’ pre-draft evaluation here at the site, but his early-career strikeout issues create bust risk that needs to be represented in his current FV grade.

Signed: International Signing Period, 2023 from Venezuela (KCR)
Age 17.5 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/55 30/45 20/45 60/60 40/50 50

The amateur profile of the wiry, projectable Gonzalez was driven by his center field defense, but he’s also off to a good start with the bat in the DSL. Gonzalez is already showing feel for moving the barrel and for pull-side lift, and he still has plenty of room on his frame for strength and power. This is a potential Goldilocks Zone prospect, one with a chance to add power while staying up the middle of the diamond, and his bat-to-ball skills should allow whatever power he grows into to play. He’s a great distance from the big leagues, but Gonzalez is already a “stock-up” prospect from the 2023 signing class.

10. Austin Charles, 3B

Drafted: 20th Round, 2022 from Stockdale HS (CA) (KCR)
Age 19.6 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/35 40/60 20/50 55/60 30/60 55

Drafted in the final round of 2022, Charles signed at the eleventh hour for a little less than $500,000 after visiting the Royals’ facility in Arizona. At a cut 6-foot-4, he is among the tallest, most projectable athletes in all of pro baseball. His mobility and athleticism at his size are remarkable, and his range of potential outcomes is as gigatic as Charles himself. Charles was a two-way prospect in high school and is still getting traction as a position player. He’s seen time at shortstop and third base, and he looks most natural at the hot corner. He’s apt to mishandle the occasional grounder, but his range and ability to bend at 6-foot-4 is very special, and he could have a huge arm at physical maturity. Charles is still getting feel for his body in the batter’s box, but his power projection is enormous. His swing has basically no load (it makes sense to keep things simple given his size) and his back foot is flying all over the place through contact, but he has pretty decent feel for the barrel for such a lanky young guy, let alone for one who’s only been focused on hitting for about a year. If we’re stacking players in the Royals system with the best shot to be an impact big leaguer, to produce like a star, Charles is high on the list. He might even be first. He’s also very raw. In addition to his lever length, Charles’ densely foggy idea of the strike zone adds to his hit tool risk. The Royals took a very aggressive line sending him out to full-season ball after just a few complex games. He’s a prospect of extreme variance.

11. John McMillon, SIRP

Undrafted Free Agent, 2020 (KCR)
Age 25.4 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops
70/70 70/70 30/35 95-98 / 99

McMillon has been the data darling of this system since the moment he signed as an undrafted free agent. He has two monstrous pitches that are undercut by 20-grade control. McMillon’s high-octane delivery features a huge pedal down the mound into an open stride that helps him clear his front side and deliver with a vertical arm slot from a low release height. It helps his fastball ride like a roller coaster above the barrels of hitters with dominance. McMillon throws with all his might, and his athleticism is evident throughout his delivery, but his grip-and-rip style not only lacks precision but any modicum of control. If he could throw strikes regularly, he’d already be an elite reliever. His mid-80s slider has big length and bite, and is three ticks harder than it was last year. There are two plus-plus pitches here. McMillon is similar in many ways to James Karinchak, and if he can dial in his control even a little bit more, he’ll be a late-inning option.

Drafted: 9th Round, 2021 from USC (NYY)
Age 23.9 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Splitter Command Sits/Tops
55/55 50/55 55/60 30/40 40/50 93-96 / 97

Of the three pitchers Kansas City got back from the Yankees in the Andrew Benintendi trade, Champlain is performing the best and was promoted to Double-A just prior to list publication. He’s throwing a ton of strikes (despite a high-effort delivery), eating innings, and maintaining mid-90s velocity. Champlain bullies the zone with imprecise fastballs that feature natural cut and his two distinct breaking balls. He may also be throwing a splitter now, but they are rare. Champlain has held his walk rates down for long enough now that it’s time to upgrade his projection from the bullpen into the rotation. He has a shot to develop three above-average pitches, but there’s not a clear weapon to thwart lefties here just yet.

13. Freddy Fermin, C

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Venezuela (KCR)
Age 28.1 Height 5′ 9″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/50 45/45 35/40 40/40 55/55 55

Fermin has been toward the bottom of the last several Royals prospect lists as a second or third catcher on the 40-man, but he’s enjoyed a power uptick during the last couple of years and he may have some peak seasons where he performs better than a run of the mill backup. Fermin’s athleticism on defense has long carried the water of his profile. His framing, arm strength, and ball-blocking are all average or better, while Fermin’s feel for contact has enabled him to post sub-20% strikeout rates throughout his minor league career. Fermin can ambush up-and-in pitches with power, an ability he’s demonstrated in a small big league sample so far. His hard-hit rates in 2023 (both at Omaha and in the big leagues) are comfortably above his 2022 rate, suggesting he’s become a bit stronger in his late-20s. Fermin’s damage can be limited by working away from him, and he has a tendency to chase a bit more than average, but a 50-grade hit tool with the occasional pull-side homer would make him a luxury backup at worst and probably a low-end regular during this window in his prime.

14. Tyler Gentry, RF

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2020 from Alabama (KCR)
Age 24.4 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/45 50/50 35/50 50/50 50/55 60

Gentry is neither his incredible 2022 (.321/.417/.555) nor his (to this point) lousy 2023, but rather a player somewhere in between. He is struggling on the surface with Triple-A Omaha this season, but he still looks like the same player he has since college, both to the eye and if you look under the analytical hood. Everything — from his whiff rates to his hard-hit rate, his chase rates to the quality and explosivity of his swings — is about the same as it was last year. He’s a well-rounded player with mostly average tools (aside from his excellent arm) who is capable of hitting for extra-base power to all fields. Gentry has a cluster of swings and misses against fastballs up and away from him, but he also makes contact with lots of pitches in that area, and his plate coverage is quite good in general, in part because he has a sentient two-strike approach. He continues to project as the smaller half of a corner outfield platoon.

15. Cayden Wallace, 3B

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2022 from Arkansas (KCR)
Age 21.9 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 50/55 30/50 50/50 30/40 55

Wallace has hit pretty well considering that his assignment to Quad Cities was fairly aggressive. Remember, he was a draft-eligible sophomore last year, and not yet 21 on draft day. He did well enough in Columbia late last year that the Royals pushed him to High-A and he has kept hitting. He’s still a mixed bag at third base. His hands and range are both below average, but he makes some nice plays with effort and athleticism and has enough arm for third. My pre-draft projections had Wallace in right field, but he’s holding his own enough at third to shift his projection. Offensively, Wallace is the same guy he was at Arkansas. He has dangerous pull power and is looking to do damage that way. It leaves him vulnerable on the outer third a lot of the time. Ideally Wallace will fold another defensive position into his recipe over time, as the total package here likely won’t play in an everyday capacity at third. Matt Vierling is a fair recent comp, with a similar down-and-in happy zone and issues on defense.

16. David Sandlin, SP

Drafted: 11th Round, 2022 from Oklahoma (KCR)
Age 22.4 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Splitter Command Sits/Tops
55/55 50/55 45/55 30/50 93-96 / 98

A shrewd 11th round pick and a spring training revelation for me, Sandlin paved over Low-A en route to a recent promotion to Quad Cities. He’s a short-striding, athletic righty with a mid-90s heater and a potentially plus breaking ball, a two-planed slider in the 83-86 mph range. The movement on both his fastball and slider is a tad above average and his changeup’s action is only slightly below. Big-framed and athletic, Sandlin spent two years at an Oklahoma JUCO prior to his lone season in Norman and might just be scratching the surface from a dev standpoint.

17. Will Klein, SIRP

Drafted: 5th Round, 2020 from Eastern Illinois (KCR)
Age 23.6 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Cutter Command Sits/Tops
70/70 50/50 55/60 30/40 95-98 / 100

Klein has added a cutter to his power four-seam/curveball combo, and if the pitch can become a second bat-misser, then perhaps he’ll be able to work in high-leverage spots. The new pitch looks promising so far, tilting in at around 90 mph. Because his curveball is a strike-stealer more than a bat-misser, elevating Klein above a middle relief projection requires a second plus pitch to pair with his fastball. A starter at Eastern Illinois, he has moved to the bullpen in pro ball and enjoyed a velo spike, sitting 97 mph since 2021 after he sat 92-94 and was merely peaking in the 97-98 range in his draft year. He can rush his upper-90s fastball past hitters at the letters, and this new cutter/slider thing looks like it might be the ticket to a bigger role.

40 FV Prospects

18. Jonathan Bowlan, SIRP

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2018 from Memphis (KCR)
Age 26.6 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 240 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/55 60/60 40/40 60/60 93-96 / 97

Bowlan’s fastball averaged just 92.5 mph coming off of TJ in 2022, but he’s back into the mid-90s and has been up to 97 in 2023, this despite missing more time with a groin injury. He fills the zone with his heavy, mid-90s sinker, which plays as more of a groundball pitch than a bat-misser due to its downhill plane and sinking shape. He has very consistent command of a nasty, late-biting, upper-80s slider, which is easily Bowlan’s best pitch and a weapon against hitters of either handedness. His changeup continues to lag behind. Because his fastball is sink-oriented, Bowlan’s slider is his only real bat-missing pitch. He’s 26 and five years removed from being drafted, and I think it’s fair to call the ball on him as a starting pitching prospect. His big, inning-eating frame aside, Bowlan’s peripheral attributes all point to the bullpen as well. The timing of his TJ has made it tough for him to build a starter’s innings load and his option years are starting to bleed away. He might debut as a starter for the Royals, but if we’re evaluating these players as if we’re trying to envision their fit on a contending team, Bowlan looks like a reliable middle reliever.

Drafted: 4th Round, 2020 from Oregon State (KCR)
Age 24.0 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 172 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Command Sits/Tops
60/60 45/55 60/60 30/35 93-96 / 97

Chamberlain has a lefty power reliever look to him, leaning heavily on mid-90s velocity (he averaged about 92 mph during his short 2020 pre-draft run at Oregon State, but has been sitting about 95 mph ever since) and a nasty overhand curveball. His drop-and-drive style delivery helps create flat angle and carry on his fastball, which pairs really nicely with the death-bringing rainbow that is his curve. He’s scrapped his changeup in 2023 and now has a second breaking ball, a harder mid-to-upper-80s slider that has been clocked as hard as 90 mph. He’s too erratic a strike-thrower to be considered for late-inning relief, but Chamberlain’s stuff is nastier than your standard middle reliever’s.

20. Diego Hernandez, CF

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (KCR)
Age 22.6 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/45 30/40 20/30 60/60 55/60 50

The Royals added Hernandez to their 40-man roster after the 2022 season even though he had only played about 30 games above A-ball. He was coming off his lone above-average offensive performance since he was in the DSL, a .284/.347/.408 line with 20% K% and 8% BB% at mostly High-A, with a month at Northwest Arkansas tacked onto the end of the year. He dislocated his shoulder diving for a ball during 2023 spring training and has been on the 60-day IL all year, only getting into rehab games a few days before list publication.

Hernandez can really go get it in center field. He’s a plus runner who can flip his hips and sprint back on balls over his head with comfort and ease. His defensive ability alone should enable him to play as a fifth outfielder, but Hernandez will have to develop as a hitter and athlete if he’s going to make any sort of impact on offense and occupy a more significant role. He’s chase prone and, for a college-aged prospect, lacks strength with the bat. He can flatten out his bat path and hit high pitches into the gaps, but he tends to poke and slap at anything in the bottom two thirds of the zone. Given how little he’s played at the upper levels, Hernandez was probably going to spend most of 2023 at Double-A and play an up/down role in 2024. If he can become stronger, he’ll give himself a better chance of holding down a long-term roster spot.

21. Andrew Hoffmann, SP

Drafted: 12th Round, 2021 from Illinois (ATL)
Age 23.4 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
40/40 55/60 45/50 45/55 91-93 / 96

Hoffmann had a nomadic amateur career, starting at Oakland University in Michigan before a JUCO stint at John Logan CC and ultimately a move to Illinois, where he had some dominant starts and some epic clunkers amid the occasional week or two off. Some of his fastballs dipped down into the mid-80s at times, but Hoffmann showed an ability to miss bats with all three of his pitches and the Braves used a 12th round pick on him. After he signed, Hoffmann’s velocity stabilized, and he sat 92-93 mph for the rest of 2021 and was in the 93-95 range in 2022 prior to his trade to the Royals for a comp pick in last year’s draft. For a 6-foot-5 guy, his levers and arm action are actually pretty short and consistent, enabling Hoffmann to profile as a starter. His velo is down a bit in 2023, more in the 91-93 range again. His slider isn’t all that hard, living in the low-80s, but it has a huge amount of lateral action and projects as a plus pitch, while he occasionally turns over a dandy changeup. There are some other fun elements here, like Hoffman’s slow and sometimes disruptive leg raise from the windup, but probably not a ton of upside. His K rates have plummeted since joining the Royals, and Hoffman projects as a backend starter.

22. Luinder Avila, SP

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Venezuela (KCR)
Age 21.9 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Splitter Command Sits/Tops
50/55 55/60 40/50 30/50 92-94 / 96

Avila’s elaborate delivery creates some long-term relief risk and his stuff is more interesting than obviously good, but his size, athleticism and breaking ball spin give him an exciting foundation for a 21-year-old. Avila’s huge glove raise acts as a magician’s assistant as he strides home. His vertical arm slot creates whiff-limiting downhill plane on his fastball, which sits 92-94 mph and has odd cut and sink action at times. His slot also imparts big depth on his curveball without it popping out of his hand in an identifiable way. If he can find more consistent feel for his splitter, which flashes bat-missing dive, then we’re talking about a no. 4/5 starter. If not, there’s still exciting relief potential here, especially if Avila has a velo spike in the bullpen.

23. Noah Cameron, SP

Drafted: 7th Round, 2021 from Central Arkansas (KCR)
Age 24.0 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
40/40 45/50 60/60 50/55 90-93 / 95

Cameron is a classic soft-tossing lefty with a plus changeup who projects as a fifth starter. He was dominant in the lower levels because of his trick-pitch cambio but has begun to meet resistance at Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Cameron’s command and deceptive delivery (he hides the ball forever) will allow him to continue to start, but he’s going to have to throw his changeup a ton to get by. His low-90s fastball has actually added a tick of velo this year and pairs pretty well with his low-80s curveball, enough to keep hitters off balance but not enough to dominate.

24. Steven Zobac, SP

Drafted: 4th Round, 2022 from Cal (KCR)
Age 22.7 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/45 50/55 45/50 35/60 92-94 / 95

Zobac is having A-ball success as a starter sitting 92-94 mph with a vertically-oriented fastball that plays best at the letters. Zobac’s delivery is simple and repeatable, but neither of his secondary pitches is especially nasty. Both his slider and changeup tend to live in the 82-85 mph range and play because Zobac can command them. He looks like a quick-moving backend starter.

25. Samad Taylor, 2B

Drafted: 10th Round, 2016 from Corona HS (CA) (CLE)
Age 25.0 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 35/35 30/30 70/70 50/50 40

Taylor was drafted by Cleveland and traded to Toronto as part of a package for reliever Joe Smith, then was sent to the Royals as part of last year’s Whit Merrifield deal. He played his way onto the Royals 40-man with a great Arizona Fall League run (he played better than his statline), broke camp with Omaha in 2023, and, after parts of eight seasons in pro ball, made his big league debut in the middle of June.

Taylor can impact the game in a host of ways, mainly with his blazing speed. He barely looks like he’s touching the ground as he floats from base to base, and he’s become a much more efficient basestealer during the last few years. Baseball’s new rules should enable him to make an impact if/when he reaches base. A career .262/.350/.423 hitter in the minors, Taylor’s feel to hit is comfortably below-average and he likely won’t hit enough to be a true righty platoon option on a contender. He’s an average second base defender but, despite his speed, Taylor’s feel for center isn’t good enough for him to play there regularly. Eric Young Jr. is my go-to comp for players who fit in this sort of role, a 2B/LF part-timer whose impact is situational.

26. Beck Way, SIRP

Drafted: 4th Round, 2020 from Northwest Florida JC (NYY)
Age 23.9 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 55/60 40/45 30/40 94-96 / 97

Way’s walk rates have exploded in his first full season in the Royals system after he came over as part of the Andrew Benintendi trade in 2022. The JUCO draftee was drafted as (and remains) an arm strength dev project with mid-90s heat and a super long arm action that he doesn’t repeat. Way’s best pitch is his mid-80s slider, which should theoretically pair nicely with his tailing fastball, but he so often fails to command the latter that he rarely ends up in counts where his slider can shine as a chase pitch. It’s encouraging that he’s holding 94-96 mph fastball velo across three to four innings as a starter, and there might be more in there if he ends up shifting to relief. Like Frank Mozzicato, the musculature in Way’s lower half is not well developed and he might find greater consistency if he gets stronger in this area. He’s still a high-variance prospect, with his most likely outcome now that of a middle reliever.

27. Mason Barnett, MIRP

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2022 from Auburn (KCR)
Age 22.7 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 218 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/55 55/60 45/50 30/40 30/40 93-96 / 97

Barnett moved into Auburn’s rotation in the middle of his junior season and his stuff peaked late in the year as the draft approached. The violence and inconsistency of his delivery caused him to project as a reliever on our draft rankings, and even though he’s been developed as a starter so far, that’s still the most likely outcome. Barnett has four pitches, his heater sits in the mid-90s, and he’ll show you two plus breaking balls, but the command to start simply isn’t here. Barnett’s slider is more consistently good than his curveball because he tends to baby his curve into the zone in a way that hitters identify, while he throws the slider with more conviction and with arm speed that mimics his fastball. If there’s one thing Barnett has shown in 2023 that might cause one to shift his projection toward the rotation, it’s that he’s held mid-90s velo across about as many innings as he threw last year, indicating his late-season performance in 2022 was actually the start of a sustainable climb rather than postseason adrenaline. His repertoire depth and durability should enable him to work multiple innings.

Drafted: 6th Round, 2022 from Ole Miss (KCR)
Age 22.8 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/45 55/55 30/45 30/30 45/60 60

Of all the high-profile college backstops in last year’s draft, Dunhurst has the best chance to stay back there and projects as a plus defender with a plus arm. He also has better plate coverage than many of the other catchers, but is only a threat to do extra-base damage in a narrow window of the zone (up-and-in). SEC teams began to figure this out and limited Dunhurst’s slugging output compared to his brief freshman season. He was hurt when camp broke in 2023 and has only recently returned to an affiliate. He’s a high-probability backup.

35+ FV Prospects

29. Asa Lacy, SIRP

Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Texas A&M (KCR)
Age 24.1 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/60 70/70 50/50 20/30 95-97 / 98

Lacy was either been injured or extremely wild as a pro, and the last public update on his status (provided in an Anne Rogers interview of player development/field coordinator Mitch Maier) was that he is throwing bullpens and live BP in Arizona. When he’s healthy, his stuff is still very good. Lacy has a 70-grade slider. It’s depth at 87-90 mph is ridiculous and reminiscent of Brad Lidge. He’ll also show you 95-97 with riding life, but Lacy only threw his fastball for strikes 45% of the time in 2022 and walked well over a batter per inning. This is his 40-man evaluation year, but it’s tough to imagine the Royals rostering him unless some kind of player dev miracle occurs during the second half of the season. Would another org pop him in the Rule 5 and be able to get his control into a serviceable area as a reliever? It’s worth a discussion with your dev group to see if there are obvious changes to be made here that have so far been missed. At this point, Lacy is purely a stuff-driven change-of-scenery flier.

30. Daniel Vazquez, SS

Signed: International Signing Period, 2021 from Dominican Republic (KCR)
Age 19.2 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/40 45/55 20/40 50/40 30/45 60

Kansas City’s top 2021 international signee, Vazquez really struggled with a 2022 full-season assignment at age 18 and was sent back to Columbia to start 2023. He’s hitting the ball harder than last year, but he hasn’t made any bat-to-ball progress and is still more of a magmatic collection of twitch and projection than he is clearly a prospect at this point. He won’t be 20 until December and is already very physical, he will show you plus bat speed, and he has a cannon when he steps into a throw. But a slow exchange and tight hips prevent him from making a lot of odd-platformed throws cleanly or quickly, and Vazquez’s swing features a ton of effort and he doesn’t track especially well. There are meaningful tools present here but still a long developmental road ahead.

31. Angel Zerpa, MIRP

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Venezuela (KCR)
Age 23.8 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
40/40 50/50 50/50 50/60 92-94 / 95

Zerpa was added to the Royals 40-man after the 2020 season and has struggled to find his footing since then in large part due to injuries, not all of them arm-related. In 2023, though, he has been on the shelf with shoulder tendinopathy and returned for a few rehab outings not long before list publication. He’s sitting 92-95 mph in those outings and mixing in more two-seamers than before, likely as a means of dealing with suboptimal fastball shape. His heater is pretty vulnerable, but Zerpa throws plenty of strikes, and his slider and changeup are both good enough to consider him a potential backend starter. Because his option years are running out and Zerpa has had trouble building innings, it’s more likely he ends up in a long relief role.

32. Austin Cox, MIRP

Drafted: 5th Round, 2018 from Mercer (KCR)
Age 26.3 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 235 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/45 55/60 55/55 40/45 40/40 89-93 / 96

Cox has moved to the bullpen after spending his entire minor league career as a starter and has been a consistent part of the big league ‘pen since mid-June. He has enjoyed a little velo spike with the move and his four-pitch mix has helped him be unpredictable in a long relief role. Cox’s vertical arm stroke helps his 92 mph fastball ride and imparts depth on his curveball. His slider (which looked as if it had been scrapped for a while) gives him a second, distinct breaker. His command is still below-average, but that will be fine if Cox is only working two innings at a time. He fits nicely in a low-leverage, multi-inning bridge role.

33. Anthony Veneziano, MIRP

Drafted: 10th Round, 2019 from Coastal Carolina (KCR)
Age 25.8 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/55 50/50 50/55 35/40 93-95 / 97

Veneziano has had some pretty dramatic swings in performance throughout the last couple of seasons, at times dealing with bouts of extreme wildness. He walked just 3% of opposing hitters at Double-A early in 2023 before a promotion to Omaha. While that’s a positive development, it isn’t indicative of Veneziano’s true level of skill, and he’s once again performing like a below-average command guy since leveling up to Triple-A. He still has three average pitches: a sinker that will touch 96 mph, a lateral mid-80s slider, and a tailing changeup that he commands better than his other offerings. He’s a near-ready spot starter prospect.

34. T.J. Sikkema, MIRP

Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Missouri (NYY)
Age 24.9 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 221 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
35/35 55/55 50/55 50/55 90-92 / 94

One of the three pitchers acquired from the Yankees for Andrew Benintendi, Sikkema’s strikeout rates tanked after the deal and he has moved into a long relief role in 2023. He has a long, low arm action and sits 90-92 mph with tail, and as you can imagine, he’s especially tough on lefties. He could probably stand to use his secondary stuff more frequently, as he isn’t throwing a ton of strikes with his current fastball-heavy approach. Lots of funky, three-pitch long relievers look like Sikkema, who is performing like an up/down option.

35. Roni Cabrera, LF

Signed: International Signing Period, 2022 from Dominican Republic (TEX)
Age 17.9 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/50 40/50 25/50 55/50 30/50 40

Recently acquired from Texas as part of the Aroldis Chapman trade, Cabrera is a 17-year-old outfielder who was repeating the DSL prior to the swap. Cabrera, who turns 18 at the end of July, was young for his signing class and had a rough pro debut on paper in 2022, albeit at age 16. This season has been much better as, at the time of the trade, Cabrera had an OPS well over 1.000. Even though he was young for his class, Cabrera was already quite physical for his age and his 2023 small sample performance is more in line what you’d expect from a hitter who is stronger than most of the rest of the league. He is extremely pull-oriented and is hitting the ball hard with remarkable consistency so far this season, with a 43% hard-hit rate and 14% barrel rate as he makes his way to the Royals. Cabrera’s peak exit velos aren’t crazy, and his present raw power is more pedestrian than the consistency and quality of contact he’s making so far. He strikes me as the sort who has outgrown the DSL and needs to be promoted to the domestic complex to really be challenged. He’s an interesting low-level flier with relevant pull-pop and a prototypical corner outfield frame.

36. Jacob Wallace, SIRP

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2019 from Connecticut (COL)
Age 24.9 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/60 50/60 50/55 30/40 94-97 / 99

Wallace has been traded a couple of times now, once from Colorado to Boston for Kevin Pillar, and then from Boston to Kansas City for Wyatt Mills. Over the last year, Wallace’s walk rate has leapt into the 18% range, putting him in more of an up/down relief prospect area rather than a stable middle reliever. He’s still throwing really hard with plus riding life, and his slider has big depth that plays to the back foot of lefties when it’s located. Passed over in the 2022 Rule 5 Draft, Wallace again looks unlikely to be rostered and will be upper-level depth next year, in range to debut if his command improves.

37. James McArthur, SIRP

Drafted: 12th Round, 2018 from Ole Miss (PHI)
Age 26.6 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
50/50 55/55 40/40 45/50 45/50 92-94 / 96

McArthur felt like a potential 2022 debutant, but a stress reaction in his elbow ended his season early and probably impacted his stuff before he was shut down. His fastball only averaged 92 mph last season, down considerably from the year before. McArthur was sitting 94-96 in single-inning relief outings during the spring of 2023, then was traded from Philly to Kansas City for maxed-out rookie-level outfielder Junior Marin. Since he was acquired, McArthur’s velo has dipped a little bit; he’s averaging 93 mph with enough sink to generate a 48% groundball rate against the heater. A two-plane 77-82 mph curveball operates as his most frequent secondary pitch, while a cutter has begun to creep more and more into his usage, which will hopefully give him a tool to keep hitters off his fastballs. Without a true plus pitch, McArthur looks more like an up/down depth option than a true on-roster, middle-inning archetype.

38. Jonah Dipoto, SIRP

Drafted: 35th Round, 2019 from UC San Diego (KCR)
Age 26.8 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Cutter Command Sits/Tops
50/55 60/60 45/50 30/35 92-95 / 96

Dipoto has had pretty significant issues with walks as a pro but things have been much better so far in 2023. He’ll show you a plus-plus slider on occasion and has added a cutter to his mix, which gives him two firm, diverging offerings when paired with his two-seamer.

39. Steven Cruz, SIRP

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (MIN)
Age 24.0 Height 6′ 7″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops
70/70 45/50 30/35 95-99 / 101

The hard-throwing Cruz sits in the upper-90s with plus extension and flat angle, but his slider’s inconsistent length and finish has made it tough for him to push past Double-A. His size, body composition, and arm strength are all incredible and will give him plenty of long-term opportunities to hone his command and find a quality secondary pitch en route to a middle-inning role. He was part of the Michael A. Taylor trade and is likely to debut as an up/down reliever in 2024.

40. Samuel Valerio, SIRP

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (KCR)
Age 21.7 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/60 40/45 45/50 30/45 96-98 / 99

Valerio has always thrown really hard for his age, but he’s had a little velo spike compared to 2022 and is sitting 96-98 so far in 2023, albeit with round down elements and poor command. Valerio’s lack of feel for location is most punishing when it comes to his breaking ball’s efficacy. He doesn’t locate it well enough for it to induce whiffs, and a lot of them are non-competitive. He’s still only 21 and remains in an arm strength flier FV tier, projecting as a one pitch up/down reliever at present.

41. Anderson Paulino, SIRP

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (KCR)
Age 24.8 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Splitter Command Sits/Tops
60/60 50/55 45/45 40/40 95-97 / 98

Paulino has a heavy upper-90s sinker and a really hard slider in the 88-91 mph band. His slider doesn’t have bat-missing length, but its late movement keeps it off the barrel and is another way for him to induce weak contact. He’s been spinning his wheels at High-A for the last couple of years, but Paulino’s arm speed, frame, and ability to get a groundball makes him an interesting six-year minor league free agent candidate who might find something more with a change of scenery.

42. Yunior Marte, SP

Signed: International Signing Period, 2022 from Dominican Republic (KCR)
Age 19.8 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/55 40/45 50/55 40/50 20/50 93-95 / 96

Though not especially projectable, Marte is a big-framed teenage righty who has been in the 93-95 mph range on the complex. His curveball has above-average depth and he has feel for landing it in the zone, but his other secondaries are erratic right now. He’s a slow-burning name to know toward the bottom levels of the system.

Other Prospects of Note

Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category.

More Relievers
Eduardo Herrera, RHP
Yefri Del Rosario, RHP
Noah Murdock, RHP
Eric Cerantola, RHP
Mack Anglin, RHP
Emilio Marquez, LHP

Herrera is a converted infielder who was acquired from Arizona in a deal for Nick Heath a couple of years ago. The undersized 23-year-old sits 96, with an average curveball and 30 control. Del Rosario, one of the Braves prospects cut loose in the Coppolella scandal, is now 23 and having a bat-missing rebound after struggling in 2022. He’s sitting 95 and will flash an above-average slider. Murdock, 24, is a 6-foot-8 righty who finally moved to relief this year. He’s sitting 96 and flashes a 55-grade slider, but he has 30 control. Cerantola and Anglin are similar to Murdock — they were stuff-heavy college arms who haven’t polished their feel to pitch in pro ball. Marquez is a diminutive lefty with a riding upper-80s fastball that has missed bats through the mid-minors.

Notable Names
Luca Tresh, C
Brewer Hicklen, OF
Brennon McNair, 3B

Tresh has a backup catcher’s skill set except for his struggles controlling the run game; he’s allowed nearly 90 stolen bases at an 87% success rate so far in 2023. Hicklen, a former two-sport guy, is hitting with power at Omaha, but he looks like a left field-only fit on defense and isn’t making enough contact to hold down a long-term role. He deserves to wear a big league uniform at some point this year, though. McNair, 20, is an athletic infield prospect with a lift-heavy swing and undercooked feel to hit.

Hit Tool Sleepers
Milo Rushford, OF
River Town, OF
John Rave, OF

Rushford is a medium-framed 19-year-old outfield prospect from Tucson who signed for just $125,000. He’s shown precocious feel for the zone and bat-to-ball feel so far on the complex. Town and Rave are both performing as old-for-the-level hitters, especially Town, who has one of the lowest swinging strike rates in the org.

If Only They Could Play Up the Middle
Tyler Tolbert, SS/CF
Dairon Blanco, OF
Peyton Wilson, 2B

This whole group has interesting tools, but they aren’t great fits at premium positions. Tolbert plays SS/CF but isn’t really a fit at either spot. He and Blanco (who lacks feel for center field) are both plus-plus runners who could be end-of-the-bench specialists. Wilson is hitting pretty well and plays defense with a ton of effort, but he isn’t especially skilled.

DSL Bats
Daniel Lopez, OF
Tony Ruiz, OF
Angel Acosta, 3B
Jorge Hernandez, C/3B/1B

Lopez is a very projectable lefty-hitting outfield prospect who signed for nearly $500,000. Ruiz signed for over $1 million and has big power, but he’s striking out at a concerning rate early on. Acosta is the opposite — he’s making lots of contact but is physically mature. Hernandez is an interesting multi-positional defender who tracks pitches well and sprays the ball to all fields.

Fringe Bats
Omar Hernandez, C
Lizandro Rodriguez, INF
Omar Florentino, INF

Hernandez has plus contact rates, but he’s in his third year of A-ball and is only a fair defensive catcher. Rodriguez’s hit tool seems flimsy to me — he doesn’t actually have precise bat control despite his early-career K rates. Florentino is a versatile infielder who hasn’t gotten much stronger in pro ball.

Below-Average Heat, One Plus Pitch
Ryan Ramsey, LHP
Ben Hernandez, RHP
Shane Panzini, RHP

Ramsey is a lefty with a plus changeup taken on Day Three of last year’s draft out of Maryland. Hernandez was a high-profile prep signee who has had trouble staying healthy. He’s sitting in the low-90s and has a good changeup. Panzini is sitting 90-92 and has an above-average slider.

System Overview

This is one of the three worst systems in baseball at present, though if we did a “young talent” ranking rather than just the farm system, the Royals would look much better because of the Bobby Witt Jr./MJ Melendez/Vinnie Pasquantino group (and others) that graduated last year. The inability to develop pitching has resulted in many high picks stagnating at their pre-draft skill level. Since 2020, the Royals have spent $9 million in bonus pool space on high school pitching and none of those players have made any kind of leap so far.

It’s difficult to conceive of a way this system can improve quickly. With Aroldis Chapman already out the door, there are still a few veteran arms who might fetch something before the deadline, but probably not the kind of impact prospects who would elevate the overall quality of the system. It’s going to take success via the draft and international amateur market, and that usually takes a while. The Royals do have four of the top 75 picks in the upcoming draft, which is a start.

There are some individually exciting prospects in this org (especially Austin Charles), but it’s mostly comprised of pitchers with bottom-of-the-roster utility. It’s tough to be confident that the arms with real upside (anyone in the 40 FV tier and above) will actually improve given Kansas City’s recent track record, but as always, I try to veer away from “predicting” and toward “scouting” with these write-ups. Still, it is much more common for pitchers in this system to get worse than to get better. That position is always going to be subject to attrition because of injury, but the Royals have performed below expectation.

Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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9 months ago

An org that, like the Rockies, has fallen way behind the times in pitching dev and preaches things that don’t work anymore. It’s actually stunning how similar these two orgs are from the outside looking in, down to the “values” thing.

As with the Tigers, there has been so much damage done thanks to the prior regime that fixing this is going to take a few years of misery at the big league level. An entire generation of Royals pitchers has not developed, which is absolutely brutal both to win games and to trade from. The Rockies would apply here too, but in their case there really doesn’t seem to be a change in regime, so…

Last edited 9 months ago by mariodegenzgz
Dick Monfort
9 months ago
Reply to  mariodegenzgz

I don’t get what your big deal is on the whole “values” thing. We don’t believe you can boil a player down to a number “value”, you got to look at the whole person and how he gets you to the number of wins to improve upon what you did last year. Isn’t that all anyone can ask of anyone?

9 months ago
Reply to  Dick Monfort

Totally, Mr. Monfort. How silly of me! I’m sure a new Rooftop to sell beer from will also be a key part of the values that help us win games!

9 months ago
Reply to  mariodegenzgz

I’m not sure you can consider this a change in regime either considering their “new” head of baseball ops has been there since 2006. I think the Rockies comp is absolutely spot on. They are the two most directionless franchises in baseball currently

9 months ago
Reply to  smb11488

Oh… I didn’t remember it was an internal hire.

Nevermind then lol

9 months ago
Reply to  smb11488

The White Sox would like a word. And so do the A’s.

9 months ago
Reply to  mariodegenzgz

huh? The Tigers are 2024 contenders.

9 months ago
Reply to  mariodegenzgz

It is becoming increasingly obvious that most effective front offices have regular infusions of people from outside of the system to get new ideas and processes, and maybe even just to break up groupthink. Only a few organizations don’t do this and are successful–I think only the Rays, Yankees, Cardinals, and Guardians, and the Guardians look like they could use an infusion of ideas for scouting and developing hitting anyway (and the Cardinals for pitching). There are a lot of good ideas floating around there and if you’re not hiring people from outside the organization you’re going to miss out on a fair number of them.

Meanwhile, if you look at a list of organizations that have fallen behind it’s almost all organizations where the current leadership and all of their lieutenants have been in the system for a very long time. The Rockies, Royals, White Sox, and Athletics all fit this description. It might also be true for the Nationals, I’m not as certain about them. These teams are notable because usually when a team is doing badly and there is a change in leadership it’s an opportunity to get new blood in from outside of the organization but for various reasons, they haven’t.

9 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

I’d love to know how much this applies to the Reds right now. It seems like they’ve somehow gotten a leg up on identifying top amateur talent over the past few years, but I also wonder if this is a bit of a “small sample <=> potentially just luck” issue.

9 months ago
Reply to  tz

I don’t know if they have changed their scouting but they have dramatically overhauled their player development team from outside sources. Their pitching coach came from the Brewers and they had Kyle Boddy in the organization for a while too. That had some trickle-down effects to the scouting, at least on the pitching side, they started emphasizing certain types of movement a lot more than in the past. It’s pretty interesting because as far as I know, most of the very top guys in the front office have been there for a while.

I can’t say for certain on the position player side but they do seem to have switched their emphasis from “older high school hitters who beat up on kids a year younger than them” like Hendricks to “polished college hitters” like India and McLain.

9 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

Yes, it is a problem for the Nats too. Rizzo and his main deputies haven’t changed in a decade. With that said, their quick fall from grace did spur some change, albeit far too late to arrest that fall. There’s a number of articles about how Rizzo disregarded advanced analytics for the Nationals’ best seasons, and they had one of the smallest teams working on this. There has been an improvement, particularly in their drafting in recent years, which was by far their weakest trait, having not producing a single major league player with a positive WAR for a decade since Anthony Rendon in 2011. This season alone 3 drafted players have reached the majors (Alu, Irvin and Willingham) all drafted in 2018-2019, though only Irvin has yet to post a positive WAR.

Complacency is a real issue, especially when you have 15+ teams that are actively seeking a way to develop an advantage against you. But I understand why it’s hard to keep things fresh. In the Nats (or Cardinals, Yankees or Guardians case) they were all successful for very long periods of time. How do you fire staff, when the big league team is consistently winning their division or the World Series? That could instill a pretty toxic working environment.

However the Royals and Rockies don’t have that as an excuse.

9 months ago
Reply to  willl

For a long time, the Athletics and Rays and Yankees (and to a lesser extent the Cardinals) had a culture of innovation where they were never resting on their laurels and always trying to stay one step ahead. That worked for them for a long time, and it is still working for the Rays and Yankees (and sort of for the Cards and Guardians).

But for the Nationals (and Dombrowski with the Tigers, and Brian Sabean with the Giants) they relied really heavily on just being smarter than anyone else. And that works for a while, but eventually the game passed Sabean by, and it sounds like the same thing happened to Rizzo. (Dombrowski is a weird situation, he went to the Red Sox and learned a lot from them and then got a chance to start over and bring in lots of new voices in Philadelphia).

The thing is that when a team needs a new leader, it is often a chance to start over with an overhauled front office team and get new and fresh ideas in there. This is what happened with the Giants under Zaidi, the Brewers under Stearns, and the Cubs under Hoyer. They all went out of their way to bring in a lot of people from other organizations. But the Rockies and White Sox and probably Royals have not taken those opportunities.

9 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

& Dombrowski’s time at the end of his Detroit tenure was colored by Mike Ilitch being close to death & the demand to win a WS for him before he died.The rumors were always that some of the moves (esp signing Verlander & Miggy extensions, Prince Fielder trade) were more Ilitch moves than Dombrowski moves.

Of course, they were up against salary & that led to some other bad moves- Trading Doug Fister while trying to win (of course DD got Robbie Ray back in that deal), not getting anything for Scherzer when it was clear he was going elsewhere & just letting him walk…trading Ray because he wasn’t ready for Shane Greene, who supposedly was, dumping Eugenio Suarez for Alfredo Simon (by far his worst trade, just awful..unless you need pitching NOW, which they did), etc.

& he got fired after starting the much needed reset where he got Fulmer, MAtthew Boyd & Daniel Norris for Price & Cespedes.

Detroit’s biggest issue was promoting Avila from within after firing DD..which, well see your post above about needing new voices. & Avila appeased ownership his first offseason by doing a quick rebuild by signing Upton & Jordan Zimmermann & kicking the can down the road…which, of course, Detroit is still waiting for. Harris seems like he COULD be good.

Max Power
9 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

These regimes recognize that bringing in people from outside orgs would mean bringing in people who could run departments way better than the people who currently run them, and the people currently running them would rather keep their jobs and do a mediocre or poor job then allow other people to infringe on their “turf”. And ownership allows these department leaders to operate this way.

You’ll also recognize with all 4 of those orgs mentioned (COL, KC, CWS, OAK) there has been a ton of turnover with front office staffers at lower levels of the orgs. Again, the department leaders don’t want to cede any of their turf, even to people inside the organization, so these orgs have terrible inter-departmental communication and the staffers who recognize that their orgs operate worse than 3/4 of the league leave and either go to better run orgs or do something else.

9 months ago
Reply to  Max Power

You’ll also recognize with all 4 of those orgs mentioned (COL, KC, CWS, OAK) there has been a ton of turnover with front office staffers at lower levels of the orgs.

I knew that about Oakland but not about the others. That’s really interesting. And also really bad for an organization!

formerly matt w
9 months ago
Reply to  mariodegenzgz

I was looking up the recent Tigers history and they gave Gordon Beckham 240 PA in 2019???