Kansas City Royals Top 47 Prospects by Eric Longenhagen and Tess Taruskin May 27, 2022 © Tommy Gilligan-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 our own observations. This is the second 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. A quick overview of what FV (Future Value) means can be found here. A much deeper overview can be found here. All of the numbered prospects below also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It has more details than this article and integrates every team’s list so readers can compare prospects across farm systems. It can be found here. Top Prospects Team Lists 2022 2021 ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG Royals Top Prospects Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV 1 Bobby Witt Jr. 22.0 MLB SS 2022 65 2 MJ Melendez 23.5 MLB C 2022 55 3 Nick Pratto 23.6 AAA 1B 2022 50 4 Asa Lacy 23.0 AA SIRP 2024 50 5 Vinnie Pasquantino 24.6 AAA 1B 2023 50 6 Alec Marsh 24.0 AA SP 2023 45+ 7 Kyle Isbel 25.2 MLB CF 2022 45 8 Nick Loftin 23.7 AA CF 2023 45 9 Frank Mozzicato 18.9 A SP 2026 40+ 10 Jonathan Bowlan 25.5 AA SP 2023 40+ 11 Maikel Garcia 22.2 AA SS 2023 40+ 12 Ben Kudrna 19.3 A SP 2026 40+ 13 Jonathan Heasley 25.3 MLB SP 2022 40+ 14 Nathan Webb 24.8 A+ MIRP 2022 40+ 15 Josh Dye 25.7 AAA MIRP 2022 40+ 16 Tyler Gentry 23.3 A+ RF 2024 40 17 Drew Parrish 24.5 AA SP 2023 40 18 Michael Massey 24.2 AA 2B 2023 40 19 Collin Snider 26.6 MLB SIRP 2022 40 20 Dylan Coleman 23.7 MLB SIRP 2022 40 21 John McMillon 24.3 A SIRP 2024 40 22 Christian Chamberlain 22.9 A+ SIRP 2024 40 23 Ben Hernandez 20.9 A SIRP 2025 40 24 Carter Jensen 18.9 A C 2026 40 25 Emmanuel Rivera 25.9 MLB 3B 2022 40 26 Ronald Bolaños 25.8 MLB SP 2022 40 27 Angel Zerpa 22.7 MLB MIRP 2022 40 28 Darryl Collins 20.5 A LF 2024 40 29 Daniel Vasquez 18.1 A SS 2025 40 30 Shane Panzini 20.6 R SP 2026 40 31 Brewer Hicklen 26.3 AAA LF 2022 40 32 Henry Ramos 17.7 R RF 2027 40 33 Eric Cerantola 22.1 A SIRP 2025 35+ 34 Will Klein 22.5 AA SIRP 2024 35+ 35 Nate Eaton 25.4 AA 3B 2023 35+ 36 A.J. Block 24.1 A+ SIRP 2024 35+ 37 Samuel Valerio 20.6 A SIRP 2024 35+ 38 Juan Olmos 17.5 R C 2027 35+ 39 Kasey Kalich 24.1 A+ SIRP 2023 35+ 40 Anderson Paulino 23.7 A+ SIRP 2023 35+ 41 Ivan Castillo 27.0 MLB 2B 2022 35+ 42 Robbie Glendinning 26.6 AA 3B 2024 35+ 43 Omar Florentino 20.6 A SS 2024 35+ 44 Luca Tresh 22.4 A+ C 2025 35+ 45 Anthony Veneziano 24.7 AA SIRP 2023 35+ 46 Zach Haake 25.6 AA SIRP 2022 35+ 47 Austin Cox 25.2 AAA MIRP 2023 35+ Reading Options Detail Level Data Only Full Position Filter All All C 1B 2B SS 3B LF CF RF SP SIRP MIRP 65 FV Prospects 1. Bobby Witt Jr., SS Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Coleyville Heritage HS (TX) (KCR) Age 22.0 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 65 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 40/45 60/70 50/60 60/60 45/55 50 Witt’s development is occurring at a rate that would make Ocarina of Time speedrunners envious, as the Royals effectively skipped the prodigiously talented shortstop over both A-ball levels and sent him right to Double-A Northwest Arkansas to start 2021, his first full season of affiliated ball. Witt, who began the year as a 20-year-old, responded by hitting .290/.361/.576 across a season split evenly between Double- and Triple-A. He amassed 72 extra-base hits, 33 of them home runs, in just 123 games and swiped 29 bases at a 73% success rate. The 33 dingers were good for fourth-most in all the minor leagues, trailing only Marlins prospect Griffin Conine (their dads were briefly teammates in 1995) and org-mates MJ Melendez and Nick Pratto. Witt has had more than a half decade of uninterrupted excellence and he looked the part, both physically and fundamentally, among big leaguers during the 2020 summer camp and alternate site period, when he was barely 20 years old. He was a known elite prospect as a high school underclassman thanks to his combination of physical gifts and poise, eventually going second overall behind Adley Rutschman in the 2019 draft. His hit tool was nitpicked leading up to that draft, which was natural considering that the mix after Rutschman was Witt and several premium hit tool guys in Andrew Vaughn, C.J. Abrams, and Riley Greene. Witt’s underlying data suggests there are still some nits to pick in this regard, as his swinging strike rate (14.3%) was worse than average in 2021, and he has historically had issues swinging inside on the outer edge. That, in particular, has plagued Witt during his early big league tenure, as he’s chased breaking balls at a roughly 40% clip, much worse than the big league average (28% on all pitches). But because he’s a viable defensive shortstop, has big raw power, and has shown that he’s going to get to that power in games, Witt need only have a 40-grade hit tool to be a star, and he looks like a lock to be at least a 3 WAR player annually even if that’s where things settle. He performed exceptionally well against velocity while with Omaha, slugging .800 against pitches 93 mph and above (albeit in just a 77-pitch sample), and was especially adept at turning on heaters up-and-in there. But that hasn’t carried into 2022, and Witt had just a 28 wRC+ against big league fastballs as he graduated from prospect eligibility, which happened not long before list publication. Instead, he’s been doing most of his damage against hanging breaking balls. These issues are consistent with the growing pains of all but a few truly elite players who debut around this age, and aren’t a cause for alarm so much as they’re key data points to monitor for improvement. Witt still projects as a 30-homer threat at a premium position, and generates Trevor Story and Willy Adames comps because his frame resembles theirs more than it does those of the XL Tatis/Correa/Seager types. Witt became even more like Story late in 2021 when his throws to first lost some zip. It wasn’t so bad that he was at risk of moving off of short, but it was something to keep an eye on at the start of 2022. While at times his throwing stroke looks atypical, these issues seem to have resolved and Witt has consistently made strong, accurate throws to first, at times using his athleticism to do so in spectacular fashion. Witt has experience all over the infield and debuted as a third baseman, but became the favorite to receive the lion’s share of shortstop reps when Adalberto Mondesi tore his ACL. Mondesi’s injury was a body blow to the Royals’ defensive flexibility but doesn’t impact Witt’s projection at all, and it might actually relieve some of the mental load that would have come with playing all over the field and help him make necessary offensive adjustments more quickly. Once that happens, he’ll be a power-hitting star shortstop and the face of this franchise’s resurgence. 55 FV Prospects 2. MJ Melendez, C Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Westminster Christian HS (FL) (KCR) Age 23.5 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr L / R FV 55 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/40 60/60 55/60 45/40 40/50 60 Melendez struck out in 40% of his plate appearances in 2019, then showed up with a new swing in ’21, slashed .293/.413/.620 and led the minors in home runs, the first catcher to do so since Todd Greene in 1995. He nearly halved his strikeout rate, punching out just 21% of the time at Double-A Northwest Arkansas before Melendez was promoted to Omaha for the last month and a half of the season. His numbers improved slightly after being promoted to Triple-A and the Royals put him on the 40-man after the season. Melendez is still probably going to swing and miss quite a bit. His new swing has a lot of moving parts — he swings with big effort, with a wide open stance and a sizable leg kick, and his hands have been lowered for the second time since signing — and Melendez has a tendency to pull off of offspeed stuff away from him. But he covers the bottom two-thirds of the zone pretty well and is adept at getting deep into his lower half to reach down and barrel low pitches. Some of his swings at inside pitches look like a tennis player backhanding a ball. Mostly though, he is incredibly strong, and capable of hitting balls out from foul pole to foul pole. The changes have unlocked the raw power that made Melendez so exciting as a high schooler, actualizing it in games. Having only previously played catcher during his professional career, Melendez played nine games at third base in 2021. While he occasionally would pick a short hop or make a barehanded play, he also struggled with throwing accuracy. Melendez had played two Triple-A games in right field as of 2022 list publication and is understandably raw out there, but he has also made a few fantastic plays. Some of this experimentation hints at issues with Melendez’s defense behind the plate, but more importantly, it indicates that the Royals are looking for ways to get his bat into the lineup every day before Salvador Perez has vacated his role as their regular catcher (his deal runs through 2025, at least), though the two were sharing time prior to a Perez sprained thumb. Melendez varies his crouch between a traditional one and dropping to one knee, mixing it up. In his 91 major league innings behind the plate, he’s thwarted three steal attempts, all with pop times under two seconds. All of those steal attempts came on pitches in or near the strike zone, but when he’s attempted to throw out a runner at second on a pitch that missed it by a wide margin, he’s airmailed the ball into center. His technique for blocking pitches in the dirt, even when the ball bounces in front of him, is to smother it with his glove, not relying as heavily on his chest protector or other padding as other backstops do. He does this skillfully, but occasionally it’ll result in the ball careening awkwardly off his body or skidding past him at an angle that may have been cut off by a more strategically positioned torso. There’s plenty of room for defensive improvement for Melendez, but he’s thus far proven himself reliable enough to afford the veteran Perez more time in the DH role in the short term and eventually become the everyday catcher. 50 FV Prospects 3. Nick Pratto, 1B Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from Huntington Beach HS (CA) (KCR) Age 23.6 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/40 60/60 55/70 40/40 55/60 60 There were pro scouts who didn’t even consider Pratto a prospect after they watched him hit .190 and strike out 35% of the time in Wilmington in 2019. First basemen, even ones like Pratto with a bevy of secondary skills, don’t have the luxury of whiffing that often and still becoming big leaguers because the offensive bar at the position is so high. But Pratto has altered his swing (most notably, his stance is open and he has a leg kick now) and had a huge 2021 spring, so consistently punishing fastballs at the top of the zone with power during the co-op period between big league and minor league spring training that at one point he was intentionally walked in what is understood to be a non-competitive, developmental setting. Pratto’s swing has bad intentions. He collapses his back side to create lift and just swings as hard as he can at fastballs he can pull, selling out for power. It’s very similar to Shohei Ohtani‘s swing mechanics, and this is a rare instance where we’re projecting a player to out-hit their raw power grade even though their hit tool grade is below average. Pratto has always had a good feel for the zone and his ability to pick out pitches he can drive is quite good, so we like his chances of continuing to tattoo fastballs at the top of the zone, though we also think he is still really vulnerable to back-foot breaking stuff and anything running away from him with this swing. He hit 36 homers between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha in 2021, but also struck out in almost 30% of his plate appearances. There aren’t any first basemen who strike out even 25% of the time and still become what we would define as a 50 FV. Qualified first basement since 2015 with a 25% strikeout rate or higher include Lucas Duda, Matt Adams, Chris Davis, Brandon Moss, Eric Thames 테임즈, Miguel Sanó, Mike Napoli, Pedro Alvarez — you get the idea. We had internal disagreement about Pratto being on this year’s Top 100 (opponents wanted him 45’d), but there was overwhelming industry support for his inclusion because the damage he does when he makes contact is elite, described to us as among the top 5% in baseball. While Pratto’s power has long been of the extreme pull variety, early into the 2022 season, there’s indication of an updated approach to his in-game power, specifically an increased ability to adjust to pitches and send them out in multiple directions. Less reassuring is his strikeout rate; it’s once again around the 30% mark, which is concerning despite the thump he’s showing, though he has buttressed it with a mid-teens walk rate. Pratto is an above-average hands and feet athlete at first base and he has a plus arm. He’s spent a good amount of time in the outfield so far this year and we think he has the feel and athleticism to play out there situationally, especially with so many corner thumpers occupying the Royals’ 40-man and upper-level roster space. We’re hoping that because Pratto was already able to make huge, career-saving adjustments, that he’ll continue to do so and make enough contact to support an average everyday first base profile. 4. Asa Lacy, SIRP Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Texas A&M (KCR) Age 23.0 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/70 60/70 55/60 45/50 30/35 93-96 / 98 Lacy was nasty but extremely wild early in 2021, and missed the last several months of the regular season with a shoulder injury. When he returned to pick up innings at instructs and in the Arizona Fall League, and his stuff was not only intact coming off the shoulder issue, but he was throwing harder in his two-inning outings than he was before the Royals shut him down, sitting 96-98 mph after he was 94-96 in the spring. In his first 2022 start, his 2021 wildness also appeared intact, and he recorded three walks, two HBP, and a wild pitch in his four-frame Double-A debut. But in his second appearance, he reined it in, with just two walks against seven strikeouts over his 5.2 innings, re-igniting hopes that he and the Royals had found some consistency and that Lacy would pitch himself into position for a rotation spot within the next year. Unfortunately, that second start on April 17 was the last time Lacy took the mound before he was put on the IL with a “back injury.” The only window during which Lacy has been both healthy and throwing strikes was the four-week run up to the 2020 shutdown, when Lacy put himself in position to be a very high pick (some front office people would have taken him first) with a scintillating month. At this point it’s fair to assess that stretch as an anomaly and acknowledge that there is not only relief risk here, but relief probability. While we ball-parked the odds of Lacy being developed into a big-league starter in the 20-25% range while writing this year’s Top 100, this latest setback further dilutes those odds. That said, we still have a 50 on Lacy. His stuff is absolutely vicious, and there isn’t much difference between him and the prospect version of Carlos Rodón, whose fastball shape was worse than Lacy’s is now. Lacy’s heater gives him big margin for error in the strike zone because of its velocity and carry. His slider is routinely plus and often a 70 on the scale, at least approaching Rodón’s legendary slide piece. While Lacy has two other pitches (his changeup was his go-to secondary in high school and when he gets on top of his curveball, it has huge, bat-missing depth), he may pare down the repertoire if he moves to the bullpen. 5. Vinnie Pasquantino, 1B Drafted: 11th Round, 2019 from Old Dominion (KCR) Age 24.6 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 245 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 55/60 50/50 45/55 20/20 55/55 50 Pasquantino is not a graceful athlete — even his home run trots look like they require a fair bit of effort — but he can really hit, which is the thing we care about most. There are missile defense systems with less precise tracking ability than Pasquantino, who seems to be lasered in on everything that crosses the plate, and is on time with remarkable consistency. He will track and whack breaking balls that most hitters would swing over top of, and he can also flatten his bat path and get to fastballs at the top of the strike zone. At age 23, he was a little old for a bat-only prospect who split the year between High- and Double-A, but his numbers there were incredible. He walked nearly as much as he struck out (he only K’d 13% of the time) and he has such precise feel for contact that we think he’ll get to all of his modest raw power in games. It’s an atypical first base profile since there isn’t loud raw power, but the hit/power blend projects for an output similar to Yuli Gurriel‘s, and we’re confident Pasquantino’s hit tool will make him a consistent annual run producer. 45+ FV Prospects 6. Alec Marsh, SP Drafted: 2nd Round, 2019 from Arizona State (KCR) Age 24.0 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/60 50/55 50/50 45/50 40/45 94-97 / 100 Marsh went from a Pac-12 pitchability guy to an upper-90s bully within a couple of months of being drafted, and the velo spike that he first exhibited while pitching in a COVID-era Indy League has now held through the last two seasons, even though he missed a sizable chunk of 2021 with biceps tendinitis. He was up to 100 mph prior to the injury, and while he hasn’t thrown quite that hard so far in 2022, he has been sitting 94-97 mph at Northwest Arkansas. The new velocity didn’t just manifest out of thin air. Marsh became more hulking and muscular as his velo climbed. It’s cost him a little bit of the touch-and-feel he showed while he was a Sun Devil, and he has struggled with walks on paper, but scatterplots of his pitch locations show that he’s still consistently locating his heater where it plays best (mostly at the top of the zone) and that he has glove-side feel for his slider (though that pitches doesn’t always have great bite). Those two pitches spearhead a four-pitch mix befitting a No. 4 starter. He was a Pick to Click last year but got hurt, and because of when he first showed the arm strength uptick, we still haven’t really seen him sustain it for an entire season’s worth of innings. Of all the upper level and major league Royals pitchers who throw this hard, Marsh is the only one with fastball shape that actually enables him to operate like a power pitcher, and so long as he doesn’t do any self-inflicted damage with walks, he should have an easier time establishing himself than the wave of prospects ahead of him has had. 45 FV Prospects 7. Kyle Isbel, CF Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2018 from UNLV (KCR) Age 25.2 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 183 Bat / Thr L / R FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 50/55 50/50 40/45 50/50 60/60 50 A hamstring injury and broken hamate impacted Isbel’s on-paper performance in 2019, but he looked like the same well-rounded hitter during that year’s Fall League. He spent 2020 at the alternate site, then had a hot ’21 spring training, which earned him a spot on the Royals’ Opening Day roster. He was quickly supplanted by Michael A. Taylor, and Isbel played so little in the big leagues in 2021 that he retained rookie eligibility entering this season. We still like him as the larger half of an outfield platoon, a big-league-ready role 45 player. While Isbel looks fine in center field and could probably play there every day if he had to, he’s more likely to spend his career moving all over the outfield in deference to above-average or better defenders, which has been the case with Taylor. Isbel’s carrying tool is his feel for contact. He was chase-prone during his 2021 big league debut, with a nearly 40% chase rate, but he seems to have corrected that issue, posting rates closer to 22% at Triple-A in ’21 and ’22 combined. He’s a compact athlete with a compact swing, which helps him impact pitches middle-in and down, and makes Isbel tough to beat in the strike zone. As of list publication, he was running a 5.5% swinging strike rate in 2022, coming off a 9% rate last season. His home run damage comes to his pull-side, though Isbel is capable of peppering the opposite field gap with doubles power. He can’t really put top-of-the-zone velocity into play, but he can get the bat up there to foul it off. While probably not a star, Isbel could somewhat outpace our FV projection by taking a Josh Reddick-like trajectory, where he still starts because of his defense but hits at the bottom of the order against lefties. 8. Nick Loftin, CF Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Baylor (KCR) Age 23.7 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 60 Loftin, who was drafted as a shortstop, was first listed as an outfielder on the Royals’ 2022 winter minicamp roster and has begun a transition to center field, playing there almost exclusively so far this season. It’s a logical move given the glut of middle infielders ahead of him in the org, and it’s worth noting that the Royals timed it so Loftin would have two seasons of play prior to his 40-man deadline day to make the move. While Loftin still needs some technical polish (for instance, he has a tendency to backpedal rather than turn his hips and run, and he doesn’t look comfortable with at-’em balls) and often looks like a recent conversion guy out there, his gap-to-gap range is very exciting, and he has the pure speed to be an above-average or better center field defender with reps. Much more polished is Loftin’s bat. He’s extremely tough to beat with velocity and squares up fastballs with regularity, spraying them into both gaps. He keeps things incredibly simple at the plate, which is part of why he has made such consistent contact, but one can imagine him making more athletic use of his lower half and adding more power eventually. Loftin is also a very wiry, pretty skinny guy. He’s 23, so maybe the cement on his body is dry, but between his frame still having room for mass and his swing perhaps housing dormant power, there are a few potential avenues for him to add thump. Right now, he profiles as a contact-oriented center fielder, a profile that’s currently pretty scarce across baseball. Myles Straw is a more extreme contemporary example. 40+ FV Prospects 9. Frank Mozzicato, SP Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2021 from East Catholic HS (KCR) Age 18.9 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 30/55 20/55 55/60 30/50 20/55 88-92 / 94 Mozzicato has 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. So far, Mozzicato hasn’t begun to throw any harder. Across three in-person looks during instructs, minor league spring training, and extended spring training, Moz has been in the 91-93 mph range. At times during those looks, he struggled to find release consistency, especially of his breaking ball, but that was especially true in what was his very first 2022 spring outing, which probably means we should throw it out based on the context of the look. Obviously, this demographic of prospect — the teenage pitcher — is extremely risky. Moz doesn’t have some of the characteristics of recent high-profile busts (he isn’t throwing super hard already and is still far from physical maturity), but so much of what makes him exciting as a prospect is abstract projection based on his frame, his delivery, what that delivery does for his fastball utility, and his talent for spin. What he becomes will depend on how much those characteristics manifest as actual velo and secondary stuff. The range of outcomes here is extreme, but Mozzicato will exist in the 40+ FV tier until he starts to show a deeper, firmer repertoire. 10. Jonathan Bowlan, SP Drafted: 2nd Round, 2018 from Memphis (KCR) Age 25.5 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 240 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/55 50/55 40/45 50/60 91-95 / 97 Bowlan made four Double-A starts in 2021 before being shut down and undergoing Tommy John surgery in June of that year. His inclusion on the 40-man roster meant that he wasn’t allowed to communicate with team trainers until after the lockout, but it seems not to have had a meaningful impact on his rehab, as he returned to the mound for a bullpen session in late March. He should return for second-half game action and is a natural candidate for the Arizona Fall League. Bowlan features a a really heavy, mid-90s sinker and a bevy of 45 or 50-grade offerings that should enable him to pitch toward the back of a rotation. He was 94-97 mph in the spring of 2021, working mostly with a two-seam bowling ball that induced weak groundball contact. His two breaking balls have distinct movement from one another but have tweener movement on their own; there’s one pitch with slider/cutter tweener movement and another with slider/curveball shape. There’s enough demarcation between the two that we think they’ll play, but not as dominant offerings. Bowlan’s changeup will be his best chance to miss bats. If he’s able to pick up where he left off pre-TJ, he still has a backend starter’s stuff and looks to be an innings-eating force who ends up with a little more WAR-based value because of that. 11. Maikel Garcia, SS Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Venezuela (KCR) Age 22.2 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 145 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 45/55 30/35 30/30 50/50 55/60 60 Instead of adding power to his profile as he marches toward physical maturity, Garcia has continued to develop his feel for contact, opting for smartly-placed opposite field liners as opposed to a pull-and-lift approach. His in-zone contact rates have been between 84-88% each year since he entered full-season ball in 2019. His patience is arguably his best skill, as Garcia was chasing pitches at a measly 18% rate at Double-A leading up to list publication. That’s by far a career-best mark (and would put him among the most selective dozen hitters in the majors if he can do it consistently), but his chase rates have historically been quite good, which helps switch on Garcia’s prowess on the basepaths; at Double-A this year, he has already surpassed the number of steals he racked up in his time at High-A last season, and he has done so in about half the number of games. There is very little power here. Garcia has been on the scouting radar since he first came stateside, and early on he was viewed as a prospect who might fill out and grow into viable power as he matured. That hasn’t happened, and even at age 22, he has nearly bottom-of-the scale raw pop. The total lack of thump here tends to keep Garcia’s projection on the bench, especially when you talk about him with eyeball scouts. But he’s a great, acrobatic defender and now has multiple years of plus contact and plus-plus plate discipline metrics under his belt. His feel for contact is not quite on the same level as Nicky Lopez, but Lopez is a good player to point to as evidence that profiles like Garcia’s tend to overperform. Since his return to the states after the lost 2020 season, Garcia has been better than league average at every rung during his ascent up the ladder of the Royals system. The contact-focused approach combines well enough with his defensive instincts to make for a viable utility profile, even without additional power, perhaps as a near-term, more stable replacement for Adalberto Mondesi. 12. Ben Kudrna, SP Drafted: 2nd Round, 2021 from Blue Valley SW HS (KCR) Age 19.3 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 183 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/55 45/50 50/60 20/45 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 is about as talented, albeit in different ways. Kudrna has more present ability, throws harder, and has a more mature changeup. Counterbalancing that is his relative physical maturity: he’s already big and strong and has less room to add mass and (theoretically) velocity than the prototypical high school pitching prospect. He has a loose, flexible, well-balanced delivery and generates big arm speed, sitting 93-96 mph during FanGraphs’ in-person Fall Instructional League looks and 92-94 mph, touching 96, during his affiliated debut just a few days before list publication. Kudrna’s mid-80s changeup already has consistent bat-missing action to his arm side, and his slider, which averaged 83 mph in his first outing at Columbia, flashes nasty two-plane wipe, though not yet consistently. Theoretically, the ceiling on both his breaking ball and fastball (which lacks premium flat angle and carry traits) isn’t as high as Mozzicato’s even though his fastball is better right now, but Kudrna still presents a similar potential mid-rotation ceiling. 13. Jonathan Heasley, SP Drafted: 13th Round, 2018 from Oklahoma State (KCR) Age 25.3 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/55 45/50 40/40 55/60 40/45 91-94 / 96 Heasley was a draft-eligible sophomore who simply didn’t pitch all that well in college. He moved from the Oklahoma State bullpen to the rotation as a sophomore, but walked a batter every other inning and gave up more hits than anyone with his quality of stuff should give up in college. He has been nothing but extremely consistent and effective in pro ball, tallying at least 20 healthy starts in the mid-minors during each of his first two full pro seasons and keeping his walks low, below 3-per-9 IP from 2019-21. During this stretch, we had Heasley evaluated as a fastball/changeup reliever because his mid-70s curveball, despite it’s plus raw spin, was easy to identify out of his hand and played like a below-average pitch, leaving him with two viable offerings. Fresh in 2022 has been a harder, mid-80s slider (he hasn’t scrapped the curve, it’s just become Heasley’s fourth pitch) that flashes plus. For how new the pitch is, Heasley has impressive feel for locating it, though it has a tendency to back up as he fatigues later in outings. The steady middle relief floor is still the bedrock of Heasley’s profile, but the new slider gives him a chance to break out and stick in the big league rotation. 14. Nathan Webb, MIRP Drafted: 34th Round, 2016 from Lee’s Summit HS (MO) (KCR) Age 24.8 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 240 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 70/70 55/60 40/45 30/40 96-99 / 101 Webb’s velocity began to climb in 2019, when he went from sitting 89-92 mph to sitting 90-94 and touching 96. It had exploded even further when he was seen following the pandemic shutdown, as he sat 95-97 mph and was touching 101 during the 2021 regular season, and that pitch has above-average carry, too. From 2017-21, Webb’s strikeout rate more than doubled as a result of his uptick in arm strength. This was a four-year rookie-level player who had suddenly been added to the Royals 40-man roster after the 2021 season even though he had all of 32 innings above Low-A. Webb threw his fastball a whopping 70% of the time in 2021, but his mid-80s slider also looks like a bat-missing offering at times and generates favorable evaluations from in-office personnel focused on pitch data, as does his seldom-used changeup. Webb often worked multiple innings at a time in 2021, and his repertoire depth makes him a multi-inning fit if he can curb some of his wildness when he returns from a forearm strain that has him shelved to start 2022. 15. Josh Dye, MIRP Drafted: 23th Round, 2018 from Florida Gulf Coast (KCR) Age 25.7 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 30/30 55/60 55/55 55/60 86-90 / 92 The funk factor is high on Dye, with his long, lanky limbs and his low-slung armslot. His arsenal includes a sweepy slider, a tailing changeup, and a sinker that he uses to great effect throughout the zone, despite its habitat in the high-80s. He gets away with that low velo thanks to the mechanical funk, which is particularly distressing to lefties, and his impeccable east/west command over the entire arsenal, which allows him to keep batters on both sides of the plate off balance. Thanks to that command, Dye has always maintained a low walk rate across a pro career that dates back to 2018, but so far this season, it’s down to a minuscule 2.3% (two walks in 20.2 innings). The sum of Dye’s parts adds up to a multi-inning relief role, which is how the org has deployed him thus far. 40 FV Prospects 16. Tyler Gentry, RF Drafted: 3rd Round, 2020 from Alabama (KCR) Age 23.3 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/45 50/55 35/50 55/55 50/55 55 Gentry’s potential is largely tied to his power and hit tool making up for questionable corner-outfield instincts. His hot start to the 2020 season, during which he walked as often as he struck out, was enough to earn him a third round selection in that year’s amateur draft. He skipped directly to High-A for his first year as a pro, and while his strikeout rate was near 30%, he slashed .259/.395/.449 and walked 15.6% of the time. That walk rate has come down a few notches so far in 2022, but every other element of his offensive profile has improved. In his first few weeks of the season, Gentry has notched a hit in all but five of his 24 games, good for a .344/.412/.511 slash line and a lower strikeout rate than in 2021 to boot. This offensive prowess is thanks largely to his ability to adjust between extending to swing at stuff on the outer half and altering the bend in his lower half to allow him comprehensive vertical coverage of the zone. 17. Drew Parrish, SP Drafted: 8th Round, 2019 from Florida State (KCR) Age 24.5 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 40/40 45/45 60/60 45/55 87-90 / 92 Parrish is a lefty with a plus changeup and starter-caliber command, so he’s extremely likely to play a big league role of some kind, but whether or not he can seize a rotation spot for the long haul may be dictated by how his breaking ball develops. It’s an extremely slow, lollipop curveball in the 69-72 mph range, almost an Eephus-style curveball in the Zack Greinke and Vicente Padilla mold. It would be a cute fourth or fifth option if it were allowed to function as a get-me-over surprise a few times per start, but it’s Parrish’s third pitch. It’s possible the Royals will help him parlay his natural ability to spin the ball (his curveball spin rates are often in the 2600-2700 rpm range) into a firmer slider, but that hasn’t happened yet. It’s encouraging that they’ve done something similar with Jonathan Heasley, who had a below-average curveball in previous years and has added a really hard, upper-80s slider in 2022. Parrish only sits in the low-90s but his short, deceptive arm action and his fastball’s carry make it a viable offering, and help it miss bats in the strike zone. Lefties with a changeup this good tend to be valuable big league contributors either toward the back of the rotation or as a swingman/spot-starter type. The key variable here is whether Parrish can find a breaking ball sufficient for the upper part of that range of outcomes. 18. Michael Massey, 2B Drafted: 4th Round, 2019 from Illinois (KCR) Age 24.2 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/55 45/50 45/40 50/50 45/55 40 Massey is another of the 2019 draft’s college position players who is tough to evaluate on paper because he missed the 2020 season due to the pandemic, creating a gap in his performance track record and a discordance between his age and level of performance on the back of that gap. Massey is not only in that bucket, but he was also dealing with a back issue that impacted his performance in 2019. Sent to High-A in 2021, he had a huge season, slashing .289/.351/.531 with 50 extra-base hits (21 of them homers) and an impressive 15% K%. Of course, he was a 23-year-old college hitter crushing A-ball pitching, albeit one who hadn’t been healthy and active for two years. Not all of the visual and underlying statistical evidence corroborates Massey’s 2021 line. While he has some hitterish elements (the short-levered Massey is adept at catching fastballs on the inner third), his swing is relatively grooved, he tends to be vulnerable to back-foot breaking balls, and he’s a fairly aggressive swinger. His peak exit velocities aren’t what you’d expect from someone who just hit 20 bombs, resting comfortably below average, and the same is true of his barrel rate. His swing is so geared for lift, however, that even if he doesn’t have big raw, Massey seems likely to hit for in-game power by virtue of how often he hits the ball in the air. Massey has only ever played second base in pro ball and he probably needs to start branching out to other positions since he doesn’t quite have the hit/power combination to project as an everyday second baseman. He’s not a candidate to try to move up the defensive spectrum, especially not in an org that is loaded at shortstop ahead of him. Instead, we’ll be looking for him to get some reps at third base and the outfield corners en route to a lefty-hitting utility role. 19. Collin Snider, SIRP Drafted: 12th Round, 2017 from Vanderbilt (KCR) Age 26.6 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 202 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops 50/55 60/60 60/60 94-98 / 99 Snider was sitting 91-94 mph in 2019, and has now had two straight years of arm strength improvement spanning ages 24-26. He has been in the 93-97 mph range and topped out at 98 in 2022, but his fastball still isn’t missing bats because its tailing shape tends to find barrels. It does get a lot of groundballs, but many of them are hard-hit and sneak through the infield. Snider has better command of his excellent slider, which was what initially made him a big league prospect, than he does his sinker. He’s demonstrated consistent and prolonged control over this long, glove-side, sweeping slider, which has also become firmer and now sits in the upper-80s. There may be ways Snider can eventually add more sink to his fastball, or perhaps he’ll develop better feel for locating down and to his arm side as he gets more comfortable with this new velocity. We had Snider evaluated as an up/down middle reliever when he was sitting 92 mph, and the issues with his fastball’s actual effectiveness make it possible that’s what he ends up being, but the new arm strength indicates there’s more ceiling here, à la Clay Holmes and Diego Castillo. 20. Dylan Coleman, SIRP Drafted: 4th Round, 2018 from Missouri State (SDP) Age 23.7 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops 65/65 55/55 40/40 96-100 / 101 Coleman’s velocity reached a new level in 2021, when he was throwing 96-100 mph after having previously sat in the low-to-mid-90s. The velo bump earned him a call-up, and he impressed over a tiny 6.1 inning sample to close out the season. He’s stayed up in the big league bullpen ever since, and though he hasn’t yet hit the same triple-digit heights as last year, he’s resting comfortably in the 97-98 mph range. He pairs the heater with a hard slider that has had more consistent finish in 2022, to the tune of a 17.2% swinging strike rate. But while his strikeout rate has been well above league average, his command has taken a hit and his walk rate has ballooned over the 20% mark. The fact that he’s remained a part of the big league roster (rather than being sent down for further development) indicates the club’s confidence in him finding his footing as he fine-tunes his strike-throwing. 21. John McMillon, SIRP Undrafted Free Agent, 2020 (KCR) Age 24.3 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops 70/70 50/55 20/35 94-96 / 97 McMillon would have been a high-priority senior sign in the 2020 draft had it not been shortened by MLB’s pandemic-inspired cost-saving measures. Instead he signed as an undrafted free agent with Kansas City, which was somewhat ironic given that some of our in-office sources who care exclusively about pitch data were extremely hot for him. McMillon’s fastball is going to be a monster weapon if he can control it, which was a problem at Texas Tech, where he walked 110 hitters in 145 career innings. Fully-operational McMillon sits 94-97 mph with huge carry at the top of the zone. McMillon’s slider has bat-missing vertical shape (like a low-80s power curveball), but its quality really varies, as does McMillon’s conviction when he throws it. Even though that pitch doesn’t have a lot of spin, it almost perfectly mirrors his fastball shape and is indistinguishable from his heater until it’s too late for the hitter. There’s a late-inning reliever here if McMillon can just cinch up his feel for release consistency. That hasn’t happened yet, and he was walking more than a batter per inning in 2022 as of list publication. The Royals are at the midpoint of what was a pretty long developmental runway for McMillon. He first pitched in affiliated ball at age 23, and he and the Royals had/have the back half of his signing year, and all of 2021-23 to harness his stuff before 40-man’ing him. Josh Staumont’s late progression presents reason for optimism in this regard. McMillon’s ceiling is similar. 22. Christian Chamberlain, SIRP Drafted: 4th Round, 2020 from Oregon State (KCR) Age 22.9 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 172 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/60 60/60 40/45 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 was sitting 96-97 in ’21 and 94-95 early during the spring of ’22) and a really nasty overhand curveball. He has a really athletic, drop-and-drive style delivery that helps create flat angle and carry on his fastball, which pairs really nicely with the death-bringing rainbow that is his curve. He only threw a handful of changeups in his 2020 starts, and Chamberlain only pitched a couple of innings in affiliated ball last season due to a shoulder injury, then moved to the bullpen very quickly this season. He does flash the occasional diving changeup, but he’s much more likely to be a power fastball/breaking ball reliever. His command needs to get better for him to be a big league pitcher at all, but if it becomes even a 40 on the scale, then Chamberlain could pitch in later innings due to the quality of his stuff. 23. Ben Hernandez, SIRP Drafted: 2nd Round, 2020 from De La Salle HS (IL) (KCR) Age 20.9 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/55 35/40 60/60 30/50 92-95 / 96 Hernandez underwent a pretty significant physical transformation as a high schooler, going from an uncoordinated, soft-bodied righty sitting in the 80s to a good-framed changeup specialist who was up to 92 mph at PG National, then up to 95 during a 2020 pre-season workout. He was the 41st overall pick in 2020 and sustained fastballs in the 93-95 mph range while he was healthy in 2021, then sat 94-96 during instructs. Hernandez works with an easy-looking delivery that he doesn’t always repeat. His sinking, tailing changeup is already a plus, money pitch, and he looks comfortable using it against righty batters, while his mid-70s curveball flashes average but is consistently below. The strike-throwing and a relative lack of breaking ball quality shade our projection for Hernandez toward the bullpen, though if he continues to throw harder in that role, he’ll be a late-inning weapon. 24. Carter Jensen, C Drafted: 3rd Round, 2021 from Park Hill Senior HS (MO) (KCR) Age 18.9 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/40 45/50 25/50 30/30 30/45 50 Jensen is a physical, lefty-hitting catcher with a good looking low-ball swing and great breaking ball recognition. Pro velocity may stress test his swing at the top of the zone, but Jensen is a viable defensive catcher (he has an average arm and below average accuracy, and is a fairly advanced receiver for his age) with big present power (his peak post-draft exit velos were top five in this system) and a chance for more if he becomes more svelte and athletic with access to a pro strength program. There’s big hit tool risk here, but Jensen is a good developmental catching prospect with a carrying tool that gives him puncher’s chance to be a regular. 25. Emmanuel Rivera, 3B Drafted: 19th Round, 2015 from Interamerican University (KCR) Age 25.9 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 50/50 50/50 45/45 30/30 50/50 55 Rivera is a corner infield role-player with average bat-to-ball ability, nearly average raw power, and sneaky athleticism for a player his size. He doesn’t have huge range at third base but he does have very good hands, actions, and can make tough throws from all kinds of different platforms. He can damage middle-middle mistakes, but isn’t the kind of impact thumper typical of a corner infielder and instead is poised to play a smaller corner utility role. 26. Ronald Bolaños, SP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Cuba (SDP) Age 25.8 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/45 55/55 50/50 45/45 40/45 90-96 / 98 Bolaños was up with the big league squad last June for three solid relief appearances, then returned to Triple-A for the remainder of the 2021 season. He started the 2022 season there as well, making three starts in April before being called up once again to fill out the Royals bullpen. His walks were up and strikeouts down in his first few appearances, which is of particular concern given the fact that his fastball isn’t much of a swing-and-miss generator, but he’s regained the command of his four-pitch mix in his more recent appearances. Bolaños only ever started as a minor leaguer, but the innings he’s accrued as a major leaguer thus far have all been out of the ‘pen. This may keep the door open to the back end of the rotation, and that potential outcome boosts his profile as a whole. 27. Angel Zerpa, MIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Venezuela (KCR) Age 22.7 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/45 45/50 40/50 50/60 91-93 / 94 Either Zerpa’s style of pitching has changed or our initial evaluation of him was wrong. When Zerpa was added to the 40-man two offseasons ago, he looked like a pitchability lefty with stellar east/west command of a tailing low-90s fastball and an above-average changeup and slider. He looked like a sneaky No. 4/5 starter prospect who was on the precipice of the big leagues. Now he’s taking a power pitcher’s approach and garnering almost all of his swings and misses on letter-high fastballs, while getting almost none with his secondary stuff. His mid-80s slider, which he uses most often, isn’t getting hitters to chase, and he’s often casting his changeup well out of the strike zone, at the height of the hitter’s gut. At least based on how he looks on tape, Zerpa has also filled out to a point where it’s actively impacting his athleticism, which may be why these pitches have regressed. He looks more like a spot start option right now. 28. Darryl Collins, LF Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Netherlands (KCR) Age 20.5 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/60 40/45 20/30 50/50 40/50 40 Collins is a below-average athlete, his swing has an atypical look, he doesn’t have more than doubles power, and he’s got a top-heavy build (he’s not soft-bodied, just barrel chested and has a really narrow lower body). But he consistently takes great at-bats, he tracks pitches beautifully, and he hits well-struck liners all over the field. Once he gets going, he’s also a quick, effective base runner. While he’s only 20, Collins isn’t especially projectable and he may only ever have below-average raw power (he produced some of the lowest peak exit velocities in the entire system in 2021), which is a problem for a left field-only defender. There is perhaps room for more in-game power via mechanical adjustment rather than physical growth, as Collins’ swing is extremely simple and conservative, and features very little movement in his lower half. But this Collins may not be suited for a more athletic, aggressive swing, and his current swing and approach to contact have been working for him: while he isn’t hitting for power, he has a career .380 OBP. Collins, who won’t turn 21 until the very end of the summer, is repeating Low-A to start 2022. It’s his 40-man evaluation year, but at his age and level (and given his lack of defensive versatility), he’s not a likely Rule 5 candidate even if the Royals don’t roster him. Even with above-average feel to hit and on-base skill, it will be tough for Collins to profile in left field. It’s hard to find statistical comps (maybe Raimel Tapia?) who have worked out, and even broad profile comps are tough because guys like Alex Dickerson and Steven Susdorf (both names that come to mind while considering Collins) were entering pro ball at age 22, whereas Collins is going to be Rule 5 eligible at barely 21. If we’re right about the lack of power projection, then it’s going to be tough sledding for Collins, but it’s also foolish to write off a player with such precocious feel for the zone and barrel. 29. Daniel Vasquez, SS Signed: July 2nd Period, 2021 from Dominican Republic (KCR) Age 18.1 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/45 35/50 20/45 55/55 40/45 60 Kansas City’s top 2021 international signee, Vasquez is a very long-levered, projectable shortstop with a sweet-looking (but long) righty swing. His size makes him a potential third base or outfield fit long-term, as does some of the stiffness in his lower half, but he definitely has the hands to stay on the infield and be an above-average defender wherever he ends up having the range to play. His timing at the plate was not good during our initial in-person looks at the very start of Royals minor league activity in 2022, but that could have been because Vasquez had only just arrived in camp and hadn’t seen live pitching in a while. Our looks during the extended spring training period before Vasquez was sent to Columbia were better. He’s still more about a well-rounded collection of tools that might tick up with physical maturity than any kind of plus present skill. 30. Shane Panzini, SP Drafted: 4th Round, 2021 from Red Bank Catholic HS (KCR) Age 20.6 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/50 45/50 55/55 40/45 20/50 91-93 / 95 Panzini was old for the 2021 high school draft class and was already a very stocky young guy, lacking typical projection, but he was already throwing hard (sitting 93 mph and topping out around 95) and his fastball had underlying traits that helped it play at the letters. Panzini also has real secondary stuff, including the makings of two good breaking balls (his slider is the better of the two) and a changeup that he already has feel for locating. He was only sitting 89-91 mph during instructs but was back in the 91-95 range during 2022 extended spring training. His pitch mix is more switched on than the other two high school pitchers picked in the 2021 draft, and while his ceiling is likely the lowest, Panzini has a chance to move more quickly than either Ben Kudrna or Frank Mozzicato. 31. Brewer Hicklen, LF Drafted: 7th Round, 2017 from Alabama-Birmingham (KCR) Age 26.3 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 213 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/35 55/55 40/45 70/70 50/55 55 Hicklen was a two-sport athlete of sorts at UAB, where he would have played football had the program been active while he was there. This means that he’s still only a few years into solely focusing on baseball, and those years have of course been interrupted. This is important context that explains Hicklen’s advanced age for his level and makes his performance markedly more noteworthy. Football shares enough athletic overlap with baseball that players who straddle the line between the two sports are often seen as having distinct advantages. But it’s important to note that Hicklen was a quarterback in his football days, and while that has undoubtedly had a positive impact on his arm strength and other aspects of his hand-eye coordination, it doesn’t inherently speak to his knack for outfield routes in the way it might had he been, say, a wide receiver, and his instincts in the outfield fall short of center-field quality, despite his speed. He spent all of 2021 at Double-A, where he slashed .243/.346/.434. So far this year in Triple-A, he’s improved in all three slash categories, but his strikeouts have ballooned to 38.8%. His swing is very short and linear, and while he generates sizable power anyway, his bat path doesn’t really allow it to play. Much of his swing-and-miss this year is coming on fastballs in the middle of the zone, with his flat path passing just below them, though that may simply be a matter of adjusting to the higher level. He’s on track for a fourth outfielder role. 32. Henry Ramos, RF Signed: July 2nd Period, 2022 from Dominican Republic (KCR) Age 17.7 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/40 45/60 20/50 40/40 30/50 70 Ramos has electric bat speed and a 70 arm, but also some hit tool questions because of how much effort he swings with. You can’t teach this kind of bat speed, and that’s the biggest reason Ramos is on our radar as he enters pro ball as our top prospect from the Royals’ 2022 international amateur class. 35+ FV Prospects 33. Eric Cerantola, SIRP Drafted: 5th Round, 2021 from Mississippi State (KCR) Age 22.1 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 222 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/60 55/60 45/55 30/40 92-95 / 97 Early on in the 2022 season, Cerantola has shown signs of having perhaps reined in the wildness that resulted in the once potential first rounder being left off the Mississippi State postseason roster in 2021. He’s now made seven Single-A starts, issuing just six walks against 29 strikeouts in his 21.1 innings of work. Cerantola has huge stuff, sitting in the mid-90s and peaking in the 97-99 mph range at his best. He also has a potential plus-plus breaking ball with elite spin. If he can rein in his command, he has the stuff to be a late-inning relief weapon. 34. Will Klein, SIRP Drafted: 5th Round, 2020 from Eastern Illinois (KCR) Age 22.5 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Command Sits/Tops 60/60 55/60 30/35 95-98 / 100 Klein has a power four-seam/curveball combo and projects in middle relief. A starter at Eastern Illinois, he has moved to the bullpen in pro ball and enjoyed a velo spike, sitting 97 mph in 2021 after he sat 92-94 and was merely peaking in the 97-98 range in his draft year. Klein also flashes a plus knuckle curveball, though that pitch has inconsistent finish. Klein generally has well-below average command, one of several pitching prospects with premium stuff and scary strike-throwing issues stacked here in the system. He often spikes his fastball, which plays best at the top of the strike zone. Shin splints kept him shelved early in 2022 and he’s been even more wild than normal in his few appearances leading up to list publication. There are folks in baseball who would stack Klein up with the Coleman-through-Hernandez group in this system — and his stuff belongs with that contingent — but we have tended to be lower on him due what we view as a sizable gap between that group’s overall athleticism and Klein’s, and we are more skeptical of him remedying his control issues for this reason. 35. Nate Eaton, 3B Drafted: 21th Round, 2018 from Virginia Military Institute (KCR) Age 25.4 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/35 50/50 30/40 55/55 50/50 80 Eaton has below-average offensive ability, but he can play a variety of positions and he has one of the best throwing arms in professional baseball, a rocket launcher that might merit a look on the mound if/when Eaton and the industry declare him to have plateaued as a position player. 36. A.J. Block, SIRP Undrafted Free Agent, 2020 (KCR) Age 24.1 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 218 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 30/30 60/60 50/55 30/45 87-92 / 93 Block was a high-priority undrafted free agent in 2020 who ended up signing with the Royals, one of his many suitors. His sweeping upper-70s slider has huge length, while his changeup had enough fade to miss bats in college. There is skepticism around Block’s changeup continuing to play in pro ball because it lacks velocity separation from his upper-80s fastball, but he had success as a starter in 2021, striking out 27% of opposing batters at High-A. We have him projected as a secondary-heavy reliever, where hopefully Block’s fastball velocity will tick up. Because Block hides the ball so well, he may be deceptive enough to work multiple innings. 37. Samuel Valerio, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (KCR) Age 20.6 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 94-97 / 99 Valerio is parked in the 94-97 mph range already and also has a plus upper-70s curveball with power movement, which is rare for what has become the slower end of the breaking ball velocity spectrum. Valerio tends to cast his changeup, his delivery is fairly violent, and his frame is a little more than maxed out, but he’s still just 20 and has a prodigious arm and breaking ball, making him an exciting developmental relief prospect. 38. Juan Olmos, C Signed: July 2nd Period, 2022 from Colombia (KCR) Age 17.5 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/50 40/50 20/40 30/30 40/55 60 Signed in January, the square-framed Olmos has a short, flat swing and strength-driven doubles power. As far as teenage catchers go, he’s quite likely to stay behind the plate due to his solid receiving, plus arm, and resilient build. He’s a good developmental catching prospect likely to first arrive in the U.S. during 2022 instructs. 39. Kasey Kalich, SIRP Drafted: 4th Round, 2019 from Texas A&M (ATL) Age 24.1 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops 60/60 55/55 30/35 91-95 / 97 Kalich is a mid-90s relief prospect with a tight mid-80s slider and very loose command. He went from a JUCO to Texas A&M for the 2020 season and so wasn’t heavily scouted until entering pro ball. Atlanta traded him to Kansas City for the final few months of pre-free agency Jorge Soler. He is too wild to play a consistent middle-inning role and instead looks like a stuff-heavy up/down guy right now. 40. Anderson Paulino, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (KCR) Age 23.7 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 mid-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’ll also show you a 45-grade changeup, a low-80s offering that lives off of Paulino maintaining his arm speed rather than movement. He projects as an up/down middle reliever. 41. Ivan Castillo, 2B Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Dominican Republic (CLE) Age 27.0 Height 5′ 9″ Weight 173 Bat / Thr S / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 55/55 40/40 30/30 50/50 45/45 55 Castillo is one of those guys who can make contact with most pitches and so chooses to swing at most of them, which causes him to chase and put mediocre contact into play. His righty swing looks like Justin Turner’s, while he has a classic low-ball lefty cut. He was called upon to fill in for a few days on the big league roster in May of 2021 during a COVID outbreak in the Padres clubhouse. In four plate appearances, he held his own, singling in a run and walking without striking out. Picked up as a minor league free agent in December of last year, he’s started 2022 with 16 walks against just nine strikeouts in his first 33 games at Triple-A. Those small samples track with his overall profile as a fundamentally sound singles-hitter who rarely strikes out, indeed an important role player in most contexts, especially if his recent uptick in walk rate is indicative of actual change, but Castillo is contending with a glut of immovable infielders on the Royals big league squad. 42. Robbie Glendinning, 3B Drafted: 21th Round, 2017 from Missouri (PIT) Age 26.6 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 196 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/30 60/60 45/45 30/30 40/40 40 Glendinning put together a solid final season at Mizzou, earning him a late-round selection in the 2017 draft. He put forth performances above league average at multiple levels in 2018 and ’19, and spent his offseasons in his native Australia as a mainstay of the ABL’s Perth Heat. When the 2020 season was shutdown, Glendinning, then with the Pirates, again returned to his homeland, but his winter league season was cut short that year due to a full UCL tear that required Tommy John surgery and caused him to miss the entire 2021 season. Now back in action after having been picked up by Kansas City on a two-year minor league contract, he looks to have trimmed down in the midsection and added upper body muscle, which nicely complements a swing that’s already geared for generating lift. He’s a serviceable fit defensively at both shortstop and third, and if he can bring down his strikeouts without sacrificing pop, he could be a useful utility infielder. 43. Omar Florentino, SS Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (KCR) Age 20.6 Height 5′ 9″ Weight 135 Bat / Thr S / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/50 30/40 20/30 60/60 45/60 50 Signed for $750,000, Florentino is a little spark plug with elite short-area quickness and glove-to-hand transfer. His defensive range will play on the middle infield, though his arm might fit better at second. While Florentino has viable swings from both sides of the plate, his raw power projection (and probably his ceiling) is limited by his size. His early career doesn’t suggest that he has special feel to hit such that he’ll find a way to break through despite lacking power. Still, he’s a twitchy, short-levered, up-the-middle athlete who switch-hits, setting up Florentino to impact the game in many ways as a utility infielder. 44. Luca Tresh, C Drafted: 17th Round, 2021 from North Carolina St (KCR) Age 22.4 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 193 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/40 50/50 30/45 40/40 35/40 60 Tresh has above-average pull power and plus raw arm strength. His pop times are often in the 1.9s but his throws tend to sail on him rather than be on the bag, so his effectiveness in stopping the run game plays down a little bit. While Tresh has big power for a catcher, he struggles to cover the outer third of the plate and swings inside a lot of pitches in the strike zone, as well as over the top of a lot of breaking balls, and he’s likely to end up as a 20- or 30-grade bat, which is basically par for the course at catcher. Tresh receives on one knee even with runners on base, in a style similar to former Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz, where Tresh is very low, almost in a half split. This sometimes makes it harder for him to block balls in the dirt but aides his ability to frame low pitches. While he needs polish, Tresh projects as a power-over-hit backup catcher. 45. Anthony Veneziano, SIRP Drafted: 10th Round, 2019 from Coastal Carolina (KCR) Age 24.7 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/55 50/55 20/30 94-96 / 97 Veneziano’s tailing fastball was in the high-80s/low-90s back in 2019, but was up to 95-97 mph when he returned in the spring of ’21. That velo has leveled out a bit, now resting in the 92-93 mph range, and without it, he’s struggling to miss bats. He has an overall swinging strike rate of just 8% (and just 6% on his fastball). Veneziano’s secondaries – a slider and a changeup – are not aiding his fastball’s playability; the slide piece has inconsistent shape, and while the changeup has occasional off-the-table action, he’s only used it against righties, and has neither located it in the zone, nor induced a significant chase rate on the offering. Veneziano has the type of slingy lefty delivery that can sometimes be developed to great effect, particularly if he’s able to increase his fastball velo and give it life up in the zone, despite the low arm slot. And given how atypical that delivery is, it’s not hard to understand why minor tweaks to his funky mechanics could negatively impact his command as he relearns how to optimize them. While the Royals may not ultimately tap into that potential, those characteristics could make Veneziano a Rule 5 candidate for a team better known for making those types of adjustments on low arm slot lefties. 46. Zach Haake, SIRP Drafted: 6th Round, 2018 from Kentucky (KCR) Age 25.6 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 186 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/50 55/55 40/45 30/35 92-95 / 97 Haake’s size, along with the nasty stuff he threw when he was at Kentucky, have long inspired intrigue. On the other hand, his inability to hold that stuff into games, combined with a bumpy injury track record, has been less inspiring. Indeed, Haake currently finds himself on the IL with an undisclosed injury (he’s missed time in the past for a flexor strain and shoulder soreness) and before being shut down in late-April, his strikeout rate had taken a significant tumble in 2022. But while these factors have led to an overall cooling on Haake, and the assumption that his potential as a starter has disappeared, some in the scouting community have expressed an interest in his underlying metrics, and he may well have been selected in last year’s Rule 5 Draft, to which the org left him vulnerable, had it not been cancelled. 47. Austin Cox, MIRP Drafted: 5th Round, 2018 from Mercer (KCR) Age 25.2 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 235 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/45 50/50 50/50 50/55 30/40 89-93 / 95 Cox is coming off a disappointing 2021 in which he spent the entire season in Northwest Arkansas, only being called up to Triple-A once the Double-A season had ended. His short stint at the upper level was unimpressive, and he was left off the 40-man. Once featuring a four-pitch mix, Cox has pared his repertoire down to three offerings, having all but eliminated his slider in favor of his curveball and changeup. The mid-70s curveball has improved, showing more consistent depth and frequently getting hitters to swing over it. It pairs well with his low-90s fastball, which Cox uses most effectively up and to his arm side. His changeup might be a touch too firm to complement the low-velocity heater, but he’s still been able to use all three offerings to miss bats so far in 2022. Unfortunately, the swing-and-miss he’s generating this year hasn’t translated to strikeouts, with his K-rate instead lingering in the mid-teens. He’s showing signs of improving his command, but the still-middling velocity is not encouraging and has resulted in an FV skid. Other Prospects of Note Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category. Big Tools, Scary Hit Tool Erick Peña, OF Wilmin Candelario, SS Peyton Wilson, 2B Jaswel De Los Santos, OF Seuly Matias, OF Peña, 19, signed for just shy of $4 million in 2019 and, largely due to his swing’s length, has been under the Mendoza Line for his entire pro career thus far. He still presents a rare power/speed/projection blend, and our fingers are crossed that we’re proven wrong to have slid him this far, but Peña has struggled so badly that we don’t think he’d be able to carry any weight in trade discussions right now, which was an indication we should move him off the main part of the list. The same is true of Candelario, a well-built, switch-hitting 20-year-old shortstop who signed for just shy of $900,000. Candelario looked good during workouts and in the DSL but has struggled against even low-level pro pitching. Wilson is in a similar boat, except he’s older and his hands haven’t improved at second base. De Los Santos, 20, has surprising power for someone his size and hit well in the 2021 AZL despite shaky peripherals that have caught up to him this year. Matias is a former Top 100 prospect and arguably a cautionary tale about lower-level strikeout rates, as he hasn’t K’d less than 35% of the time since 2017, though his 70-grade power should enable the 23-year-old to play upper-level pro baseball, or abroad, for many years. Depth Types Charlie Neuweiler, RHP Clay Dungan, UTIL Freddy Fermin, C Diego Hernandez, OF Tyler Tolbert, SS Dairon Blanco, OF Neuweiler is a sinkerballer with 30-grade velocity, but he throws strikes, his slider is above-average, and he gets his fair share of groundballs, so given the need for pitching depth league-wide, he’s pretty likely to wear a big league uniform at some point. Dungan, 25, has 40 bat speed, but he also has great hand-eye coordination and feel for contact, and he plays all over the field. ZiPS has him projected as a 40 FV type. Fermin, 27, is a plus catch-and-throw athlete with average feel for contact and no power. He’s a third or fourth catcher type. Hernandez, 21, can really run and play center field, and he’s posted above-average OBPs in the low minors while running big BABIPs against defenses that struggle to deal with his speed. Tolbert is 24, but he’s got an elite baseball frame and is going to play forever. He’s hung around the league-average batting line at each minor league stop and stole 55 bases in 2021. He could be a speedy 26th man. Blanco, who’s in the big leagues right now, is an 80-grade pinch runner type. Either Do It or Don’t Yefri Del Rosario, RHP Noah Murdock, RHP Eduardo Herrera, RHP Del Rosario, 22, is one of the players who was granted free agency as a result of the Braves international scandal from a few years ago. He sat 93-94 mph in 2021 but has only been peaking there so far in 2022, giving him just one above-average pitch (his power slurve) at the moment. Murdock, 23, is built like Doug Fister but his fastball’s angle is quite hittable and he’s dealt with several injuries. He’s an interesting change of scenery candidate. Herrera is a converted infielder who came over from the Diamondbacks in exchange for Nick Heath, but he hasn’t pitched since then due to the pandemic and a Tommy John. He was 94-97 mph for spurts before going down. Sneaky, Sneaky Jose Cuas, RHP Rylan Kaufman, LHP Yohanse Morel, RHP Wander Arias, RHP Mauricio Veliz, RHP Walter Pennington, LHP Emilio Marquez, LHP Cuas, 27, is a funky, low-slot righty who first popped onto the prospect scene as a shortstop at Maryland. He’s been pitching since 2018, sits 92-94 mph, and is a ROOGY type who throws a ton of strikes. He could be someone’s “look” reliever. Kaufman, who turns 23 in June, sits 90-94 mph with above-average carry and a slow, low-70s curveball that has plus-plus spin and movement. If he can add velo to that pitch, he has a shot. Morel, who came over from Washington in the Kelvin Herrera trade, still has a plus splitter, and a 45-grade sinker and slider. He’s still 21. Arias, 22, and Veliz, 19, are medium-framed righties with a bevy of 45/50-grade secondaries and advanced pitchability for their age, especially Veliz. Pennington is a low-slot lefty sitting about 92 mph with an above-average slider. Marquez, 24, has put up ridiculous numbers so far in 2022, but it’s thanks to his smoke-and-mirrors 90 mph fastball, tailing changeup and slow, deep curveball. He’s a multi-inning relief depth sort. System Overview Royals fans are again experiencing the difficult reality of pitching prospect attrition and plateau, the same as they did during the team’s last ascent to contention and, ultimately, victory. Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, and others have struggled to find steady footing in the big leagues early on, but growing pains and/or outright failure is often a natural part of pitchers’ early big league careers. The organizations that are able to build a critical mass of pitching, a tidal wave so large that there is still an entire staff’s worth of arms left after entropy does its thing, give themselves a fighting chance of not only becoming competitive, but remaining so. The good news is that the Royals have a panoply of pitchers still on the way. While many of them come with a sidecar of relief risk, and some of them are so wild that they may not be big leaguers at all, there are so many of them that they’re likely to buttress the current group during the theoretical upcoming run of AL Central competitiveness. That’s not to say Kansas City doesn’t have issues optimizing their pitchers. Generally viewed by the rest of the industry as one of the orgs further toward the old school end of the spectrum, the Royals seem to care a little less about fastball shape and in-zone utility. A lack of fastball playability is why we ultimately left sink-and-tail righties Kowar and Singer off our Top 100 lists even when they were carving at the upper levels, and they haven’t been able to develop a viable breaking ball or changeup, respectively, that would have made us wrong for doing that. Even some of the pitchers with riding fastball life don’t tend to locate that pitch where it’s most effective (see: Heasley, Jonathan), which may be more about the pitcher than the org’s philosophy. Kansas City’s amateur department has done a good job filling the system with guys who have big stuff, but those guys don’t tend to get much better after they arrive. The very top of the system includes a half-dozen or so bats poised to be either impact everyday players (the recently graduated Witt, Melendez, all of the 50 FVs) or integral role players (the 45s), and Royals fans know first hand how valuable a slick shortstop with contact and on-base skills is from watching Nicky Lopez the last few years, which perhaps means Maikel Garcia belongs among that group as well. It also means the club has in-house replacements for their departing free agents. Roughly $30 million will be coming off the payroll with Zack Greinke, Andrew Benintendi, and Carlos Santana‘s expiring deals, and the Royals get another $5 million in cushion via Whit Merrifield’s weird 2023 number. Having prospects on board who can step in for those players means that even with a neutral payroll, the Royals can re-allocate to other areas of need and perhaps boost their pitching staff with external signings. The club’s reputation for treating players well has gone a long way in netting them undrafted free agents and the Royals might also be able to parlay that into meaningful big league additions.