Top 24 Prospects: Kansas City Royals by Eric Longenhagen April 30, 2018 Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Kansas City Royals. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from our own (both Eric Longenhagen’s and Kiley McDaniel’s) observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this. All the numbered prospects here also appear on THE BOARD, a new feature at the site that offers sortable scouting information for every organization. Click here to visit THE BOARD. Top Prospects Series 2018 2017 ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG Royals Top Prospects Rk Name Age High Level Position ETA FV 1 Seuly Matias 19 A RF 2022 50 2 Nick Pratto 19 A 1B 2021 45 3 M.J. Melendez 19 A+ C 2022 45 4 Khalil Lee 19 A+ RF 2020 45 5 Nicky Lopez 23 AA SS 2019 45 6 Michael Gigliotti 22 A CF 2020 40 7 Eric Skoglund 25 MLB LHP 2018 40 8 Richard Lovelady 22 AAA LHP 2018 40 9 Hunter Dozier 26 MLB 3B 2018 40 10 Foster Griffin 22 AA LHP 2019 40 11 Emmanuel Rivera 21 A+ 3B 2021 40 12 Josh Staumont 24 AAA RHP 2018 40 13 Scott Blewett 21 AA RHP 2020 40 14 Meibrys Viloria 21 A+ C 2021 40 15 Ryan O’Hearn 24 AAA 1B 2018 40 16 Gabriel Cancel 21 A+ 2B 2021 40 17 Burch Smith 27 MLB RHP 2018 40 18 Yefri Del Rosario 18 R RHP 2022 40 19 Chase Vallot 21 A+ 1B 2021 40 20 Evan Steele 21 R LHP 2020 40 21 Heath Fillmyer 23 AAA RHP 2019 40 22 Bubba Starling 25 AAA CF 2018 40 23 Daniel Tillo 21 A LHP 2021 40 24 Carlos Hernandez 21 R RHP 2022 40 50 FV Prospects 1. Seuly Matias, RF Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic Age 18 Height 6’3 Weight 200 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/40 60/70 30/60 55/50 40/45 70/70 Matias’s exit velos are on par with those produced by Quad-A sluggers who have seven years on him, and he hit a quarter of his balls in play over 105 mph last season. His has a longish swing and possesses poor breaking-ball recognition, the combination of which has led to pretty concerning early-career strikeout rates. At this age, there’s time for Matias to iron those out. As soon as he does, he’ll be one of baseball’s top 20 prospects because he has game-changing power and some defensive value. If he can’t, the list of big leaguers with this kind of power and similar issues with Ks is still littered with quality contributors. 45 FV Prospects 2. Nick Pratto, 1B Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from Huntington Beach HS (CA) Age 18 Height 6’1 Weight 195 Bat/Throw L/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/60 55/60 30/60 40/40 40/60 60/60 Pratto is a do-everything first baseman with a keen eye for the strike zone. So well manicured was his feel for the strike zone (and willingness to tell umpires if he disagreed with them) in high school that scouts likened his skillset to Joey Votto’s. That’s excessive, but Pratto does have a combination of hit and power that made teams comfortable selecting him in the early/middle of round one. Pratto played both ways in high school and is an excellent athlete with great hands. He has a chance to hit in the middle of the order and play great defense at first, and he might come quicker than the rest of the 2017 class because his skills are a bit more polished. 3. M.J. Melendez, C Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Westminster Christian HS (FL) Age 20 Height 5’11 Weight 165 Bat/Throw L/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/45 50/60 30/55 50/40 45/60 60/60 Melendez is built like Benito Santiago and was the best defensive catcher in the 2017 draft. He’s as twitchy and athletic as any catching prospect of recent memory and already an excellent receiver and ball-blocker. Melendez also has plus-plus arm strength that can play down at times due to a long release. There are some concerns about Melendez swinging and missing, but what he lacks in contact ability he’s likely to make up for with power, especially now that he’s already added a leg kick that should enable him to get to more of his pop. Pro scouts who saw Melendez last summer in the AZL thought he was the second-best player in the league after Angels prospect Jo Adell. High-school catching is extremely risky, and there hasn’t been a highly drafted backstop who has worked out in over 10 years, but Melendez has star-level tools. 4. Khalil Lee, RF Drafted: 3rd Round, 2016 from Flint Hill HS (VA) Age 19 Height 5’10 Weight 170 Bat/Throw L/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/40 55/60 30/55 55/50 45/55 60/60 Lee has undergone quite a physical transformation since his underclass high-school days, when he first became a player of note. Once an undersized two-way prospect, Lee is now a very physical three-true-outcomes right fielder with an advanced approach and cannon arm. He’s having early-season success at High-A at age 19 and has already shown he can get to his power despite the strikeouts. Some prefer him to Matias because, though Matias has more power and upside, they’re more confident that Lee will hit and/or reach base. 5. Nicky Lopez, SS Video Drafted: 5th Round, 2016 from Creighton Age 22 Height 5’11 Weight 175 Bat/Throw L/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 45/55 40/40 20/30 55/55 50/55 55/55 Lopez is a smooth defender at short and makes strong, accurate throws from all over the infield. His size and lack of power on contact have been concerns dating back to college, but Lopez made some noise with the bat during the 2017 Fall League, and there’s now increased confidence that he has big-league physicality. If he makes enough contact he has a shot to be an average everyday player, and he seems to have passed Adalberto Mondesi on the organizational depth chart. 40 FV Prospects 6. Michael Gigliotti, CF Drafted: 4th Round, 2017 from Lipscomb Age 21 Height 6’1 Weight 180 Bat/Throw L/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/50 40/40 20/35 55/55 45/50 50/50 Gigliotti had a great summer on Cape Cod as a rising junior, then got off to slow start the following spring. When he finally picked things up as the draft approached, a lot of teams were already off of him and, as a result, Gigliotti fell to round five. His ceiling is limited by a lack of raw power, but Gigliotti has good feel for contact and even better control of the strike zone. He should hit and walk a ton which, even without power, could enable him to profile as a solid everyday player in center field. 7. Eric Skoglund, LHP Drafted: 3rd Round, 2014 from Central Florida Age 24 Height 6’7 Weight 200 Bat/Throw L/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command 50/50 45/45 55/55 45/50 50/50 Skoglund has an effective fastball/curveball combination (the former of which sits at 90-93 while touching 96), and his long-levered funk makes some hitters uncomfortable. His slider and changeup are fringey. Skoglund throws strikes but doesn’t have pinpoint command and that’s part of why his lesser offerings have been hittable in the big leagues. He’s big-league ready and his durability could enable him to be a fifth starter, but there’s a chance he’s a matchup bullpen lefty. 8. Richard Lovelady, LHP Drafted: 10th Round, 2016 from Kennesaw State Age 21 Height 6’0 Weight 175 Bat/Throw L/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command 60/60 50/55 45/50 50/55 Lovelady has posted video-game numbers since entering pro ball. He has a career ERA under 2.00 and WHIP under 1.00 in 100 career pro innings and was utterly dominant at High-A and Double-A in 2017. His fastball sits 93-95, touches 98, and his whippy, low-slot delivery makes it tough for hitters of both hands to pick up the ball out of his hand. His secondary stuff plays up because of this, as well. Lovelady has had trouble finding his release point early in 2018, but that hasn’t been an issue in the past and it should be corrected as the season rolls along. He has a chance to be a high-leverage relief arm and should debut this year. 9. Hunter Dozier, 3B Drafted: 1st Round, 2013 from Stephen F. Austin Age 25 Height 6’4 Weight 220 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 40/40 65/65 50/50 45/45 40/40 60/60 The return of Mike Moustakas means Dozier is probably ticketed for a lesser role unless Kansas City decides to move him. He’s still seeing a majority of playing time at third base but is getting more looks at first and in the outfield corners. Dozier, Moose, and Cheslor Cuthbert are all a bit redundant, so it’s hard to see a clear path to regular playing time for Dozier that doesn’t involve an injury. He’s now 26 and still has strikeout issues, but his raw power remains very special and he mashes lefties. He could probably play some sort of lesser platoon role right now at any of the four corner spots. 10. Foster Griffin, LHP Drafted: 1st Round, 2014 from First Academy HS (FL) Age 21 Height 6’3 Weight 200 Bat/Throw R/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command 45/45 55/60 50/55 50/55 Griffin had a bounceback 2017 after I wrote him off the year before when he was sitting 86-88. In 2017, his velo was 89-91 and touching 93, which is still pretty fringey but viable for a lefty with good command. Griffin’s best secondary is the curveball, but the changeup is really the key to a starting role for him because it needs to keep right-handed hitters off his vanilla fastball. He projects as a back-end starter. 11. Emmanuel Rivera, 3B Drafted: 19th Round, 2015 from Universidad Interamericana (PR) Age 21 Height 6’2 Weight 195 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/50 45/50 30/50 45/45 50/55 55/55 Polarizing prospects typically have volatile skillsets and big tools that scouts think, for whatever reason, either will or won’t play on the field. Rivera has essentially average tools across the board but garners wildly mixed reviews from scouts anyway. A 50 hit/50 power third baseman plays everyday, but Rivera’s (lack of) feel for the game causes his tools to play down, especially in the game’s little nooks and crannies, like baserunning and defensive awareness. He has a chance to be an everyday player, but a lot of scouts think he’s a future bench piece. 12. Josh Staumont, RHP Drafted: 2nd Round, 2015 from Azusa Pacific Age 23 Height 6’3 Weight 200 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command 65/65 60/60 50/55 35/40 Staumont was touching 102 in college, but his fastball was in the 92-95 range most of last year and touching “only” 99, with a bump for good extension. His curveball and changeup are both quite good, but Stamount’s strike-throwing hasn’t developed as hoped despite the ease with which he generates velocity. He’s being used in a relief role at Triple-A right now. The hope is Staumont can become a late-inning reliever, but his control might limit him to a lesser role. 13. Scott Blewett, RHP Drafted: 2nd Round, 2014 from Baker HS (NY) Age 21 Height 6’6 Weight 210 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command 55/60 50/55 40/45 40/50 Blewett continues to track as a potential back-end starter. His fastball sits 90-93, and his size helps it play up pretty significantly. His command and changeup require another half-grade of refinement, but that could still be coming in Blewett’s mid-20s, as it often does with pitchers this size from this geographical background. 14. Meibrys Viloria, C Signed: July 2nd Period, 2013 from Colombia Age 20 Height 5’11 Weight 200 Bat/Throw L/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/45 50/50 30/45 20/20 40/45 55/55 Viloria has a pretty promising offensive skillset for a catcher. He has a good idea of the strike zone and nearly average bat control and in-game power, which would play fine at catcher every day if Viloria can hack it. He has a high-maintenance build that he’s managed to keep in check, giving him sufficient mobility to catch. Because the entirety of Viloria’s skillset is fringey, he’s likely to be a backup, but if a few of his abilities develop even a little past where we have them projected, he has a chance to be an everday catcher. 15. Ryan O’Hearn, 1B Drafted: 8th Round, 2014 from Sam Houston State Age 23 Height 6’3 Weight 200 Bat/Throw L/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 40/45 60/60 45/55 30/30 40/45 50/50 O’Hearn was left off the Royals’ 40-man this offseason and exposed to the Rule 5 draft as a result. He went unpicked, but we think he could be a second-division regular despite his strikeout issues because, despite all the whiffs, he reliably gets to his plus raw power in games. 16. Gabriel Cancel, 2B Drafted: 7th Round, 2015 from Belen HS (PR) Age 20 Height 6’1 Weight 185 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/50 45/45 30/40 50/50 45/50 45/45 Cancel has good feel to hit, and the power he showed last year is enough to profile at second base if it holds up. He needs a little bit of polish at second base — and the 2018 MLB baseline for offensive output at second needs to hold around the 100 wRC+ mark — but if it does, he could play every day. 17. Burch Smith, RHP Drafted: 14th Round, 2011 from Oklahoma Age 27 Height 6’4 Weight 215 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Cutter Command 55/55 55/55 55/60 45/45 45/45 Smith debuted with San Diego in 2013 and then threw five innings total over the next three seasons due to TJ and then a fractured bone tunnel. He was seen by the entire industry during the 2017 Fall League, and his stuff was so electric that, when Tampa Bay left him unprotected for the Rule 5 draft, some pro directors thought he’d go first. His awkward delivery creates discomfort for hitters, which helps his entire three-pitch mix play up. Assuming he continues to stay healthy, he’s going to be a good bullpen piece. 18. Yefri Del Rosario, RHP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic Age 17 Height 6’2 Weight 180 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command 50/60 50/55 40/50 30/50 Some sources with whom I spoke thought Del Rosario was the best of the prospects granted free agency after MLB concluded its investigation of the Braves’ international misdeeds. He sat 93-95 in 2017 and has been 90-95 this spring. There’s significant risk that he’s a reliever, but you can see a starter if you project aggressively enough on the changeup — which, because of Del Rosario’s arm speed, isn’t unwarranted. 19. Chase Vallot, 1B Drafted: 1st Round, 2014 from St. Thomas Moore HS (LA) Age 20 Height 6’0 Weight 215 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/30 70/70 30/50 30/30 40/45 40/40 Vallot has huge power, but we are concerned his combination of swing and miss and defensive value (as in, none) will be tough to overcome. He hasn’t caught yet this year and looks to be viewed internally as a first-base/designated-hitting prospect now. He has been viewed as such industry-wide for some time. 20. Evan Steele, LHP Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Chipola JC (FL) Age 20 Height 6’5 Weight 210 Bat/Throw R/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command 50/50 45/50 45/50 40/50 Steele’s delivery generates Oliver Perez comps, which also means there’s a strong chance he ends up as a reliever eventually. But lefties this size who can touch 95 are rare and, as long as Steele stays healthy (he’s opening the year in extended), his fastball/curveball combination make it very likely that he destroys lefties in the big leagues one day. 21. Heath Fillmyer, RHP Drafted: 5th Round, 2014 from Mercer County JC (NJ) Age 23 Height 6’1 Weight 180 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command 50/50 50/55 55/60 45/50 40/45 Fillmyer’s two quality breaking balls could enable him to join a growing wave of starters who use their spinners more frequently than their fastballs to pitch through five somewhat inefficient innings. His fastball and changeup are average, and his command is below, so unless some of that stuff improves or the Royals get creative with his usage, he’s looking like either a No. 4/5 starter or reliever. Fillmyer played shortstop early in his JUCO career and hasn’t been pitching all that long, so perhaps he still has time to develop into a more traditional rotation piece. 22. Bubba Starling, CF Drafted: 1st Round, 2011 from Garner-Edgerton HS (KS) Age 24 Height 6’4 Weight 210 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/35 55/55 40/40 60/60 55/55 60/60 Starling very likely isn’t going to hit enough to play every day, but he does a lot of other stuff and should carve out a fourth-outfielder role at some point. He’s also so athletic and well composed that he’s probably going to play well into his 30 in a bit role if he wants to. 23. Daniel Tillo, LHP Drafted: 3rd Round, 2017 from Iowa Western CC Age 21 Height 6’5 Weight 215 Bat/Throw L/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command 50/55 50/55 40/50 40/50 The broad-shouldered Tillo has a chance to be a No. 4/5 starter based on stuff. His somewhat stiff, upright deilvery is tough for hitters to time but is also tough to repeat for extended stretches, so there’s a chance he ends up as a slider-heavy reliever. 24. Carlos Hernandez, RHP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Venezuela Age 21 Height 6’4 Weight 175 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command 60/60 45/50 50/55 40/45 Hernandez has an absolute cannon. He sits 93-95 and will touch 98 plus a tick of perceived velocity for extension. The rest of his profile is on the fringes, so there’s significant risk Hernandez ends up in relief. Other Prospects of Note Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category. Outfielders with Premium Tool(s) Donnie Dewees, CF Juan Carlos Negret, CF Brewer Hicklen, CF Raymond Lopez, CF Dewees has the least upside and most big-league certainty of this group, as he gives you a 55 bat from the left side and is a 70 runner. That’s a fine bench option. Negret has plus raw power projection and is a 55 runner. Lopez was great in my AZL looks last year before an injury ended his season. I didn’t see him enough to slap grades on his tools, but he’s a name to know. Hicklen was a college wide receiver — or, at least, he would have been a wide receiver on UAB’s reborn 2017 team if he hadn’t signed — with power and speed, but is raw for his age. Hard-Throwing Relief Prospects Brad Keller, RHP Andres Machado, RHP Scott Barlow, RHP Jason Adam, RHP Janser Lara, RHP Arnaldo Hernandez, RHP Keller was another Rule 5 acquisition. He has a heavy mid-90s sinker and slider. He could be a 40 but the stat-specific portion of our evaluation doesn’t love him because he doesn’t miss bats. Machado touches 98 and has a four-pitch mix. Everything but his fastball is a 45 or 50. Barlow has two good breaking balls. Adam has a plus fastball and slider. Lara is young and throws really hard, but that’s it right now. Hernandez is 90-94 with a 50 change and curveball. He was suspended for methamphetamines last year. Guys with Good Changeups Garrett Davila, LHP Corey Ray, RHP Walker Sheller, RHP Davila has the best change of this group, Ray throws the hardest, and Sheller’s lower slot helps his stuff play against righties. Realistic Bench Roles Brandon Downes, CF Oliver Nunez, INF Jeison Guzman, SS Marten Gasparini, CF Downes and Nunez are fairly likely to play a bench role at some point. Downes is a power/speed center fielder. Nunez is a plus-running, multi-positional infielder. Guzman and Gasparini were highly touted amateurs whose ceilings look limited to some sort of bench role, and both probably need to make stronger contact to profile at all. Back-End Starters (Mostly Sinker/Slider Guys) Trevor Oaks, RHP Gerson Garabito, RHP Charlie Neuweiler, RHP Anthony Bender, RHP Pedro Fernandez, RHP Ofreidy Gomez, RHP I saw Oaks this spring. He was 90-92, the two-seamer 87-90, and flashing a 55 slider when he located to his glove side. His changeup is a 45 and so is the slider when it’s in the strike zone. Garabito sits low 90s, has a good curveball and good makeup. Neuweiler goes 87-91 with heavy sink and a plus slider. Bender and Fernandez have 50s across the board, while Gomez has a 60 curve but doesn’t throw strikes. Corner Types Who’ll Need to Hit Samir Duenez, 1B Dennicher Carrasco, 3B/1B Cal Jones, LF Nick Dini, C Xavier Fernandez, C Duenez is on the 40-man and has better bat-to-ball skills than most of the other upper-level corner hitters (like Dozier and O’Hearn), but he doesn’t have their pop. Carrasco has a shot to be a 45 at third base and have a well-rounded offensive game. Dini and Fernandez could be third catchers on a 40-man. Cistulli’s Guy Selected by Carson Cistulli from any player who received less than a 40 FV.Andres Machado, RHP The 2017 campaign was a significant one for Machado (whom Longenhagen names as one of the “other prospects of note” above, as well). After passing his entire career up till that point with various Rookie-level clubs, he began last year at High-A, produced excellent indicators, earned a couple promotions, and then eventually made two late-season appearances in the majors. Even in his success, Machado still relied heavily on his fastball. In a late-August start profiled here, for example, Machado recorded six swinging strikes in the first inning — all on the fastball. Examining some film of his second-most recent start, however, one finds this: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/sbo09_1.mp4 … which is not only a swinging strike induced by way of the breaking ball, but a sufficiently impressive pitch that it prompts the broadcaster to describe it as a “nasty offspeed.” While a relief role is still probably the most likely outcome for Machado, he has demonstrated the ability to make surprising and necessary developments in the past. System Overview Other than the very exciting quartet of prospects at the top of this list, the Royals system is quite bland. It may not be that way for very long, though. The Royals have five of the top 60 picks in June’s draft and could add three or four 45 FV players to this system very quickly. At roughly $12.7 million, they have the draft’s largest bonus pool, and this draft class is deep with high-school arms and a few other athletes, like Jordyn Adams and Kyler Murray, who might command overslot deals. This draft is the most important single moment of talent acquisition for this franchise since the Greinke deal.