KATOH Projects: Kansas City Royals Prospects

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Yesterday, lead prospect analyst Dan Farnsworth published his excellently in-depth prospect list for the Kansas City Royals. In this companion piece, I look at that same Kansas City farm system through the lens of my recently refined KATOH projection system. The Royals have the 20th-best farm system according to KATOH.

There’s way more to prospect evaluation than just the stats, so if you haven’t already, I highly recommend you read Dan’s piece in addition to this one. KATOH has no idea how hard a pitcher throws, how good a hitter’s bat speed is, or what a player’s makeup is like. So it’s liable to miss big on players whose tools don’t line up with their performances. However, when paired with more scouting-based analyses, KATOH’s objectivity can be useful in identifying talented players who might be overlooked by the industry consensus or highly-touted prospects who might be over-hyped.

Below, I’ve grouped prospects into three groups: those who are forecast for two or more wins through their first six major-league seasons, those who receive a projection between 1.0 and 2.0 WAR though their first six seasons, and then any residual players who received Future Value (FV) grades of 45 or higher from Dan. Note that I generated forecasts only for players who accrued at least 200 plate appearances or batters faced last season. Also note that the projections for players over a relatively small sample are less reliable, especially when those samples came in the low minors.

1. Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 4.1 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 40+ FV

Cuthbert hit .277/.339/.429 as a 22-year-old in Triple-A last year, which earned him a late-season cameo with Kansas City. Cuthbert likely won’t be a star, but he makes a lot of contact, plays a semi-premium defensive position and is young enough that he still has time to improve. Statistically, he looks like a future everyday player, and those don’t grow on trees.

Cheslor Cuthbert’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Ian Stewart 4.8 3.1
2 Willy Aybar 3.7 2.4
3 Arquimedez Pozo 3.2 0.0
4 Chad Tracy 2.6 8.0
5 Kevin Young 3.2 4.9
6 Aubrey Huff 4.4 10.9
7 Hank Blalock 4.5 10.4
8 Chase Utley 2.2 32.1
9 Scott Cooper 1.6 6.3
10 Scott Spiezio 1.6 6.6

2. Raul Mondesi, SS (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 3.9 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 45 FV

Mondesi’s infield defense is excellent, but his bat leaves a lot to be desired. He hit .243/.279/.372 in his age-19 season last year, and put up a similar .246/.293/.361 batting line over his previous three years in the minors. Most concerning of all is his 26% strikeout rate from last year. That’s awfully high for someone with little else going for him offensively. Yet, as bad as Mondesi’s hitting has been, he’s also been very young for his level at every stop along the way. Although he’s yet to master a minor league level, he’s always been exceptionally young for those levels. There are a lot of extreme pluses and minuses in Mondesi’s profile, but the good mostly outweighs the bad.

Raul Mondesi’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Alex Gonzalez (Sea Bass) 3.6 5.1
2 Felipe Lopez 3.5 8.3
3 Tony Batista 2.1 13.3
4 Desi Relaford 4.2 4.0
5 Juan Melo 1.5 0.0
6 Carlos Guillen 0.8 12.6
7 Jose Valentin 0.5 9.9
8 Ricky Magdaleno 0.7 0.0
9 Jorge Velandia 0.9 0.0
10 Hiram Bocachica 2.9 0.5

3. Chase Vallot, C (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 3.3 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 45 FV

With 13 homers in 80 games, Vallot demonstrated impressive amount of power as a teenaged catcher in Low-A. Unfortunately, that power also came with loads of strikeouts. Vallot has some skills, but his profile is dripping with risk. He’s entirely unproven above Low-A and has yet to post an acceptable strikeout rate. Vallot has encouraging attributes, but is still a few years from the show and will need to make more contact over that journey.

4. Samir Duenez, OF (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 2.9 WAR
Dan’s Grade: Unranked

Duenez is an interesting case. Although he didn’t turn 19 until last June, he played exclusively at full-season ball last year and didn’t embarrass himself. He hit .266/.314/.322. Most impressive of all was his 8% strikeout rate. Dude never strikes out. On the downside, Duenez is a 1B/LF with little power, which is generally an undesirable combination. Still, his youth and contact ability help tip the scales in his favor, while his 11 steals in 101 games hint that he’d be alright in an outfield corner.

5. Marten Gasparini, SS (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 2.2 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 40 FV

Gasparini is yet another Royals prospect that’s hard to evaluate due to a wide array of pluses and minuses. First, the good: he played all of last season as an 18-year-old, yet still managed to hit .259/.341/.411 with 26 steals as a shortstop in Rookie Ball. However, he also struck out in 34% of his plate appearances — and, aside from his 10 triples, hit for minimal power. Gasparini clearly has speed and defensive chops, but his hitting is still a work in progress.

6. Orlando Calixte, SS (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 2.0 WAR
Dan’s Grade: Unranked

Calixte is cut from the same mold as Mondesi, at least statistically. Both are shortstops with speed and a touch of power, but have otherwise terrible offensive profiles. Calixte, though, is over three years older than Mondesi, which makes his odds of improving much more slim. Twenty-four-year-olds don’t generally get a heck of a lot better, so it’s hard to envision Calixte peaking as anything more than a glove-first bench player.

1-2 WAR Prospects
Rank Player Position KATOH WAR Dan’s FV
7 Miguel Almonte RHP 1.8 50+
8 Scott Blewett RHP 1.7 45
9 Eric Skoglund LHP 1.7 45
10 Reymond Fuentes OF 1.6 45
11 Alec Mills RHP 1.6 45
12 Pedro Fernandez RHP 1.5 45
13 Christian Binford RHP 1.2 40
14 Alfredo Escalera-Maldonado OF 1.1 40
15 Luke Farrell RHP 1.1 35+
16 Cameron Gallagher C 1.1 Unranked

Miguel Almonte has three potentially above-average pitches, but his performance has consistently lagged behind his stuff. He posted an unspectacular 3.96 FIP between Double-A and Triple-A last year, though his 26% strikeout rate at the Triple-A was encouraging. Cameron Gallagher was a second-round pick way back in 2011. He didn’t hit a lick in 2013 and 2014, but showed signs of life in High-A last year.


Remaining 45 or Higher Players

Kyle Zimmer, RHP (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 0.7 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 60 FV

Zimmer posted an encouraging 3.05 FIP and 28% strikeout rate between Low-A and Double-A last year, but KATOH’s down on him for a couple of reasons. Firstly, he was 23 years old (and turned 24 in September), which made him rather old for his levels. Secondly, he worked primarily in relief and averaged less than three innings per appearance. KATOH looks at Zimmer and sees a 24-year-old reliever who’s yet to pitch above Double-A. However, KATOH doesn’t know that Zimmer’s endured a plethora of injuries and was working in relief build up his stamina. Feel free to ignore this projection, but also keep in mind that Zimmer turns 25 in September and has a very limited track record above A-Ball.

Foster Griffin, LHP (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 0.6 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 50 FV

Griffin’s first full season as a pro didn’t go particularly well. The 2014 first-round pick posted an unsightly 5.44 ERA and 4.22 FIP in 22 starts in Low-A. Most disappointing of all was his 16% strikeout rate. He just didn’t miss very many bats. Still, despite his underwhelming numbers, Griffin’s still just 20. He’ll still have plenty of chances to parlay his physical talent into on-field results.

Remaining 45 Prospects
Name Position KATOH WAR Dan’s FV
Matthew Strahm LHP 0.9 45
Ryan O’Hearn 1B 0.6 45
Hunter Dozier 3B 0.4 45
Bubba Starling OF 0.4 45+
Brandon Downes OF 0.1 45

Matthew Strahm struck out nearly one-third of the batters he faced in A-Ball last year, but he’s already 24 and worked primarily as a reliever. Each of the remaining hitters has talent, but strikes out far too frequently for KATOH’s tastes. Sometimes hitters like this piece it all together, but more often than not, advanced pitching finds a way to further exploit their weaknesses.

Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. He's also on the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell None of the views expressed in his articles reflect those of his daytime employer.

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6 years ago

I have a question about the Mahalanobis comp’s. I have read the wikipedia article describing the system. I was curious though if what is used for player comp’s is the sum of the individual stat differences vs pool average, or if it lists the players closest across the board? Like is it all players in the 9-10 bucket (made up # obviously), or players with +1 BABIP, +2 ISO, etc ? I don’t know if this makes any sense…

6 years ago
Reply to  Chris Mitchell

That answers it perfectly. Thank you. I love the system.