Top 43 Prospects: Kansas City Royals by Eric Longenhagen April 1, 2020 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 my own 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 of the numbered prospects here also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It can be found here. Top Prospects Team Lists 20202019ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFGALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG Royals Top Prospects Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV 1 Bobby Witt Jr. 19.8 R SS 2023 55 2 Daniel Lynch 23.4 A+ LHP 2022 50 3 Kris Bubic 22.6 A+ LHP 2022 50 4 Brady Singer 23.7 AA RHP 2022 45+ 5 Erick Peña 17.1 R CF 2025 45+ 6 Jackson Kowar 23.5 AA RHP 2022 45+ 7 Kyle Isbel 23.1 A+ LF 2022 45+ 8 Khalil Lee 21.8 AA RF 2021 45 9 Austin Cox 23.0 A+ LHP 2022 40+ 10 MJ Melendez 21.3 A+ C 2022 40+ 11 Carlos Hernandez 23.1 A RHP 2022 40+ 12 Seuly Matias 21.6 A+ RF 2022 40+ 13 Tyler Zuber 24.8 AA RHP 2021 40 14 Brady McConnell 21.9 R SS 2023 40 15 Jonathan Bowlan 23.3 A+ RHP 2022 40 16 Kelvin Gutierrez 25.6 MLB 3B 2020 40 17 Alec Marsh 21.9 R RHP 2023 40 18 Wilmin Candelario 18.6 R SS 2024 40 19 Zach Haake 23.5 A RHP 2022 40 20 Nick Pratto 21.5 A+ 1B 2022 40 21 Maikel Garcia 20.1 R SS 2022 40 22 Darryl Collins 18.4 R LF 2024 40 23 Grant Gambrell 22.4 R RHP 2023 40 24 Ryan McBroom 28.0 MLB 1B 2020 40 25 Charlie Neuweiler 21.1 A RHP 2022 40 26 Yohanse Morel 19.6 A RHP 2022 40 27 Jeison Guzman 21.5 A SS 2020 40 28 Brewer Hicklen 24.1 A+ LF 2021 40 29 Michael Massey 22.0 R 2B 2023 40 30 Noah Murdock 21.6 R RHP 2023 40 31 Ismael Aquino 21.6 AAA RHP 2023 40 32 Josh Staumont 26.3 MLB RHP 2020 35+ 33 Yefri Del Rosario 20.5 A RHP 2021 35+ 34 Jon Heasley 23.2 A RHP 2022 35+ 35 Foster Griffin 24.7 AAA LHP 2020 35+ 36 Drew Parrish 22.3 R LHP 2023 35+ 37 Omar Hernandez 18.3 R C 2024 35+ 38 Daniel Tillo 23.8 AA LHP 2021 35+ 39 Samuel Valerio 18.5 R RHP 2024 35+ 40 Adam Lukas 21.7 R RHP 2023 35+ 41 Omar Florentino 18.4 R SS 2024 35+ 42 John Rave 22.3 A CF 2023 35+ 43 Woo-Young Jin 19.1 R RHP 2024 35+ Reading Options Detail Level Data Only Full Position Filter All All C 1B 2B SS 3B OF LF CF RF LHP RHP 55 FV Prospects 1. Bobby Witt Jr., SS Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Coleyville Heritage HS (TX) (KCR) Age 19.8 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 55 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/45 60/65 25/60 60/60 50/60 60/60 He swung and missed a lot during his showcase summer but Witt’s subsequent fall and spring were strong enough to make him second overall pick of the 2019 draft class. His skillset compares quite closely to Trevor Story‘s. There are going to be some strikeouts but Witt is a big, athletic specimen who is very likely to not only stay at shortstop but be quite good there. He also has a swing geared for pull side lift (he can bend at the waist to go down and yank balls away from him, too) and the power to hit balls out even when he swings a little flat-footed. He is the son of a former big leaguer and carries himself like one, which has endeared him to scouts and coaches during the course of a high-profile amateur career laden with very high expectations. His debut statline lacked power on the surface, but the batted ball data suggests we shouldn’t worry. 50 FV Prospects 2. Daniel Lynch, LHP Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Virginia (KCR) Age 23.4 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops 55/55 50/55 50/50 45/50 45/50 45/55 91-95 / 97 On the Cape and in the first half of his junior spring, Lynch looked like a solid third round prospect, a pitchability lefty sitting 88-92 mph with mostly average stuff, and above-average feel and command. In the month or so leading up to the draft, Lynch’s velo ticked up, and down the stretch he sat 92-94, touching 95 mph deep into starts, with an assortment of offspeed pitches that all flashed above-average. The track record of Virginia arms is concerning, but Lynch seemed less beholden to the issues traditionally associated with their prospects, with some scouts considering him endearingly rebellious. He throws a cutter, slider, curveball, and changeup that all flash above-average, with the slider occasionally flashing plus. He was 93-95 last year, and while Lynch missed a month and a half with an arm injury last summer, all of that velo and more was back in the fall, so the velo uptick has held for nearly a year now. He’s a No. 4 starter. 3. Kris Bubic, LHP Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Stanford (KCR) Age 22.6 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/45 55/55 55/60 50/55 90-93 / 95 A dominant junior year would have had Bubic in the late first round mix, but his control backed up, especially late in the year. He ended up being a great buy-low value pick for Kansas City as not only did the strikes return, but Bubic was throwing a little harder, too. He’s far more likely to hang around the 50/45 FV membrane during the rest of his time in the minors than he is to move way up the list, because even though my notes have Bubic up to 95 last year, he still lives in the low-90s and succeeds because of deception and his terrific secondary stuff. I prefer his changeup and curveball to the bat-missing weapons of other arms in Kansas City’s system (Jackson Kowar has a great change and throws a heavy sinker that doesn’t miss bats, while Brady Singer is a sinker/command guy) and think Bubic will be a No. 4. 45+ FV Prospects 4. Brady Singer, RHP Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Florida (KCR) Age 23.7 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/50 55/55 40/50 55/60 91-94 / 96 Well-regarded in high school in part because of his very loose and athletic (if somewhat unusual) delivery, the Blue Jays drafted Singer in the 2015 second round. Negotiations broke down, one of several times a high school pitcher has been at odds with an org run by current Braves GM Alex Anthopolous, and Singer went to Florida. After an uneven but promising freshman year in the bullpen, Singer’s command improved and he carved up SEC lineups for the next two years. His stuff and delivery don’t have the look of a dominant, whiff-getting major league starter, at least not at the moment. He has a lower, three-quarters delivery that helps create long tail on his two-seamer, but the pitch only resides in the 91-94 mph area, a 45 raw velocity that I think plays a bit better because of the movement. His low-80s slurve/slider (when it’s down below hitters’ knees it has more length) gets buffed by Singer’s command and also plays up above its raw quality. Singer is a spiky competitor who goes right at hitters and at times has demonstrative body language when he’s frustrated with umpires, which are generally traits the industry likes. On talent, he’s a No. 4/5 type of starter for me, and any change to that will be determined by how Singer’s changeup, which he barely used in college, develops in pro ball. The (+) designation on Singer’s FV comes from his track record of durability, and his potential to eat a ton of innings and have a higher WAR output than you’d think given his stuff alone. 5. Erick Peña, CF Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2019 from Dominican Republic (KCR) Age 17.1 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr L / R FV 45+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/55 45/55 25/55 55/50 40/50 55/55 As an amateur, Peña was billed as a well-rounded, instinctive player with a frame that portended a fair amount of additional mass. Though not as overtly projectable as the Kristian Robinson/Alexander Ramirez sorts, Peña was clearly going to grow into some power and, based on how he hit in games and played center field, was thought to have a strong chance to become a well-rounded player, perhaps a five-tool sort, with all the tools close to average. It was surprising then that Peña arrived for his first fall instructional league looking like an NFL cornerback, with one source going so far as to tell me they think Peña has a big league body right now. Even though his swing is a bit clunky, and his footwork is perhaps unnecessarily conservative, Peña looked pretty comfortable against pro pitching in the fall, the best pitching he’s ever faced in his life to this point; his performance included him roping a single off of Michael Kopech, who was sitting 97 that day. The surprising physicality has already brought about more power and bat speed, and Peña already has the helicopter overhead finish to his swing à la Miguel Andújar and Wander Franco. Once the industry becomes more confident in grading his defense and bat, which will come once he’s faced pro pitching for an extended period of time, he could be a global top 50 prospect based on his place on the defensive spectrum and the hit/power combination. 6. Jackson Kowar, RHP Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Florida (KCR) Age 23.5 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/55 45/45 65/70 40/45 93-96 / 98 “What’s the difference between this guy and Chris Paddack?” That was the question put to me about Kowar by a source for this list. On some level, they’re right. Like Paddack, Kowar has a prototypical frame, he throws in the mid-90s, and has a dominant changeup. What we now know about how and why fastballs play, however, creates some separation between the two. Though Kowar has premium starter fastball velocity, the pitch has tailing/sinking action rather than Paddack-style carry and ride, which means it’s going to generate groundballs more than it will miss bats. Kowar’s breaking ball was comfortably below average in college but the Royals have found a way to add raw spin since acquiring him (his rates are up from 2150 rpm to 2400, still shy of big league average but an encouraging development), and it’s closer to average now. He’ll likely rely on the element of surprise and his ability to locate it in order to be effective. This is all very similar to how Luke Weaver’s reports read coming out of Florida State, and I expect Kowar to have a similar career. He’s a 23-year-old who’s thrown half a season above A-ball, so while I think he’ll be a 50 FV eventually, there needs to be a little gap between him and someone like him who’s ready for the big leagues right now. 7. Kyle Isbel, LF Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2018 from UNLV (KCR) Age 23.1 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 183 Bat / Thr L / R FV 45+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 45/55 50/50 30/50 50/50 45/55 50/50 You should feel free to toss out Isbel’s 2019 regular season statistical performance. After a red hot first few weeks of the season — .348/.423/.630 — he pulled a hamstring, and shortly after he returned to game action in Extended, he broke his hamate and was shelved again until mid-July. As is typical for hitters coming back from that injury, Isbel’s numbers were poor — .216/.282/.361 overall at Wilmington — and improved the further away from surgery he got, culminating in a strong back half of August and Fall League; his Fall League look especially assuaged concerns. Isbel has a compact swing (he’s a shorter-levered guy) with line drive plane. It’s geared to do most of its big damage to his pull side, but he can slice extra-base contact down the left field line and into the left-center field gap. Isbel is still relatively new to playing the outfield full-time, which gives him some late projection on the defensive end. I think he’ll be easily supplanted by a superior defensive center fielder but will be a plus corner defender long-term, and I’m intrigued by the idea of him playing a situational second base since he has some experience there, too. He projects as an average everyday corner outfielder. 45 FV Prospects 8. Khalil Lee, RF Video Drafted: 3rd Round, 2016 from Flint Hill HS (VA) (KCR) Age 21.8 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr L / L FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/40 55/60 35/45 55/50 45/55 60/60 Lee had yet another fairly strong year — .264/.363/.372 with a 12% walk rate and a whopping 53 steals (fantasy folks: I’m not betting on that continuing) — spending 2019 at Double-A Northwest Arkansas as a young 21-year-old. He has the tools of a three-true-outcomes right fielder, potentially one who plays above-average defense, but the quality of his at-bats against elite competition has been mixed, at best. It’s likely going to take a swing adjustment to get Lee hitting for relevant power in games. His swing is long, and on pitches he impacts toward the top of the zone, it cuts downward. This causes Lee to be late on good velocity and drive a lot of pitches into the ground. He’s still young enough to make these and other adjustments, but I have Lee projected as the larger half of a right field platoon rather than a true everyday player. 40+ FV Prospects 9. Austin Cox, LHP Drafted: 5th Round, 2018 from Mercer (KCR) Age 23.0 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/60 50/50 55/60 45/50 45/50 89-93 / 95 Cox is a black sheep pitching prospect in an org that has more per capita sinker ballers than perhaps any in the sport. This is a lefty with power relief stuff, at least, and a chance to start based on the depth of his pitch mix and the rate of strikes he’s thrown so far. I think Cox’s fastball would tick up into the mid-90s if he were ever put in the bullpen, which at this rate only seems likely to happen if his breaking balls end up running together, something Cox has worked to mitigate as a pro. He held his velocity last year despite a 20-inning workload increase, his results were not diluted even after he was moved to Hi-A for the back half of last year, and in just two years, he’s gone from a Day Three pick to someone who has the FV of a typical second rounder. Whether Cox ends up pitching toward the back of a rotation or as some kind of fire-breathing, multi-inning reliever (that’s where I’ve got him, and his future value grade reflects that), he’s a huge coup for Kansas City’s amateur department and player dev program. 10. MJ Melendez, C Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Westminster Christian HS (FL) (KCR) Age 21.3 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/30 55/60 30/45 45/40 45/55 60/60 There are Ed Wood movies that seem to have gone according to plan more than 2019 did for Royals hitters at Hi-A Wilmington. Chief among them was Melendez, who was on initial drafts of our top 100 last year before Kiley and my team sources squashed that with their feedback, citing Melendez’s red flag contact issues. They were right. Melendez struck out a damning 40% of the time last year. His swing is geared for low ball contact at a point in time when pitchers are attacking hitters at the top of the zone more than ever, and Melendez gets heat blown past him at the letters constantly. Everything else that scouts loved about him as an amateur is still extant. He has plus raw power, great long-term body projection, a plus arm, and projects to have a 55 glove, which is beneath the 60 or 70 grades he was garnering in high school but is still a relevant positive. We’re now looking at a likely backup catcher based on how scary the contact issues are, but if the swing issues are fixed, Melendez could really break out because the physical tools that the swing compromises are rare for the position. There are teams/scouts for which Melendez, Pratto, and Matias are just a “no” based on the way they’ve performed with the bat. I’m holding out varying degrees of hope for them, still preferring Melendez because his defense gives him a fallback big league role even if the hit tool never develops enough for him to be a regular. 11. Carlos Hernandez, RHP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Venezuela (KCR) Age 23.1 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/60 50/55 45/50 45/50 94-98 / 100 Only six teams played traditional instructional league games in Arizona last fall, and perhaps no pitcher who threw in the desert created as much buzz as Hernandez, who was filling the zone with 94-98 mph fastballs over shorter, three-ish inning outings. Hernandez has had premium velocity since he signed, but has averaged just five innings per start and 67 innings per season since 2017. Two of the three times Hernandez has missed time have been due to issues unrelated to his arm, so injuries themselves are not a concern for me so much as I’m skeptical that he can live in the mid-90s over a full season starter’s workload. He doesn’t have a cut, athletic physique, and his delivery is reliever-y and somewhat stiff, but Hernandez does repeat, and throws a lot of strikes. His breaking ball has vertical action that enables it to outperform its raw spin rate but it is reliant on his command, which again, during the fall Hernandez had. I’ve seen backfield outings during which I thought his changeup was his best secondary but that’s not typically the case. It’s possible he can start, but I don’t consider it likely, and Hernandez certainly hasn’t proven it yet. If that’s the case, then one of the secondary pitches needs to develop still, which all the missed time has made harder. 12. Seuly Matias, RF Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (KCR) Age 21.6 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/30 70/80 35/60 50/40 40/45 70/70 With few exceptions (Joey Gallo is one) even the most whiff-prone big leaguers struck out less than Matias (35% career K%, a comical 44% last year before a broken hand ended his season) when they were in the minors. But Matias’ physicality and bat speed are so supreme, the gap between his talent and that of most players so obvious, that there’s a chance he can be one of the exceptions, even if it’s in a streaky, inconsistent manner. As a teen, Seuly was already posting exit velocities on par with burly, Quad-A type hitters. Most of the issues he has are mental; his swing decisions and defensive instincts are both poor. My sources tend to be pessimistic about improvements/corrections to approach and aptitude, though perhaps that’s because they can’t see those things with their eyes, the tool they use most often and confidently to do the majority of their job. Many of the players ranked beneath Seuly here have a better chance than he does of playing some kind of big league role, but none of them have his ceiling, and based on his age, frame, and athleticism, I’m holding out some hope that he shows us what it is for a few years. 40 FV Prospects 13. Tyler Zuber, RHP Drafted: 6th Round, 2017 from Arkansas State (KCR) Age 24.8 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/60 50/50 55/60 45/50 45/50 92-95 / 97 Zuber was arguably a priority senior sign as a sixth rounder, a distinction he earned when his stuff spiked following a permanent move to the bullpen. His arm is so fast as to almost look subliminal, and Zuber’s command of both breaking balls is much better than one expects from a college relief prospect. His changeup usage has been inconsistent over the last two years but at times it’s a quality pitch, and one Zuber seemed to be rebooting during the spring with some success. Zuber doesn’t have any one dominant pitch, as is typical of high-leverage relievers, but he does have several very good ones that I think will enable him to be a seventh or eighth inning type of arm. 14. Brady McConnell, SS Drafted: 2nd Round, 2019 from Florida (KCR) Age 21.9 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/40 55/55 30/50 60/60 45/50 55/55 McConnell is polarizing, much more so than is typical for a prospect who has been on the radar since his underclass high school days. In part because he was old for his graduating class, and also because there were concerns about his ability to make contact, teams didn’t meet McConnell’s high school asking price and he ended up at Florida. That’s exactly the sort of place players like him can go to reinforce confidence in their bat, but McConnell barely played as a freshman and was old enough to be draft eligible as a sophomore, and so by draft time there was relatively little data to fight the skepticism concerning his. But he’s also got above-average raw power, plus speed, and can play shortstop (he was listed as an outfielder on the instructs roster but did not play), so he can still be a valuable player even if the bat falls short of average and his ceiling is sizable if it gets better than that. If you’ve read the list in order before arriving at McConnell’s blurb, you know this org has had trouble with players who have swing-and-miss issues upon their arrival in the system. I’m not optimistic McConnell hits enough to be a regular, and I think a multi-positional bench role is more likely. 15. Jonathan Bowlan, RHP Drafted: 2nd Round, 2018 from Memphis (KCR) Age 23.3 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 262 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 saw an uptick in velocity just before the 2018 draft, but his stuff backed up after he signed. Kiley and I moved him down the org list too soon, thinking the pre-draft velo bump was an anomaly. In 2019, Bowlan came out with a fastball in the 91-95 mph range, topped out at 97, and threw 65% of his pitches for strikes. Though his secondary stuff is quite average, his ability to locate his slider exactly where he wants to most of the time means it plays better than that. There’s some long-term concern about Bowlan’s hulking build, but for now he profiles as a strike-throwing backend starter. 16. Kelvin Gutierrez, 3B Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Dominican Republic (WAS) Age 25.6 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 50/55 55/55 35/40 40/40 50/55 60/60 Perhaps a swing change away from a mid-20s breakout, Gutierrez has the highest average exit velo in this system but among its lowest average launch angles. The makeup of his offensive DNA (plus contact, an aggressive approach) as currently constituted would play in a reserve role, some kind of 3B/1B platoon that also includes good defense. The Maikel Franco signing was a potential impediment to that. 17. Alec Marsh, RHP Drafted: 2nd Round, 2019 from Arizona State (KCR) Age 21.9 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/45 50/50 55/55 40/45 45/55 89-94 / 96 Marsh was in the mix for teams as early as the middle of the 2019 second round, so he’s yet another college arm value pick by a Royals org that has taken a bushel of them throughout the last several drafts. He has a middling four-pitch mix that plays when he’s commanding his breaking stuff. He could be a No. 4/5 starter. 18. Wilmin Candelario, SS Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (KCR) Age 18.6 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr S / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/40 45/55 20/50 60/55 40/55 60/60 A source who saw Kansas City’s DSL group thought Candelario was the best of the bunch. He has a relatively projectable frame, great body control and arm strength, and looks likely to stay at shortstop and might be plus there. His bat speed is also plus. But Candelario has some swing and miss tendencies as a result of both his age and switch-hitting swing rawness, and also has a propensity to swing a lot. He’s a switch-hitting shortstop prospect with some power but a high-risk bat. 19. Zach Haake, RHP Drafted: 6th Round, 2018 from Kentucky (KCR) Age 23.5 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 186 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/60 55/60 40/45 30/40 92-95 / 97 Be careful with this one. Haake was in our 2018 Draft top 50 coming out of the fall before his junior year because he was working with absolutely nasty stuff while at Kentucky. The next spring, he had trouble holding that stuff deep into starts, creating doubt that he could start at all. A flexor strain (2018) and shoulder soreness (2019) add to that risk. But Haake does indeed have nasty stuff, up to 98 with the fastball and a slider that has plus movement but is rarely well-located. There’s late-inning relief potential here, but that was true when Haake was in college and he still fell to the sixth round. 20. Nick Pratto, 1B Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from Huntington Beach HS (CA) (KCR) Age 21.5 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/45 50/55 30/45 40/40 50/60 60/60 Free of the context of his high school stardom, pro scouts barely see Pratto as a prospect. A two-way high schooler with a polished approach and a modest but effectual hit/power combination, Pratto has thus far fallen short as a pro hitter, striking out more than the amateur side of the industry anticipated while generating fringe power. Even terrific defensive first basemen like Pratto have to mash, and produce from both a contact and power perspective, to profile at the position. Even though his in-zone contact rates are less concerning than his disappointing peers Melendez and Matias, Pratto still struck out at an alarming 35% clip in 2019 and his exit velos do not reinforce the notion that there’s untapped, underlying power that will profile at first base. Some of his poor performance should just be chalked up to an aggressive assignment, but Pratto’s prospectdom is officially in danger. 21. Maikel Garcia, SS Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Venezuela (KCR) Age 20.1 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 145 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/55 30/40 30/40 55/50 45/55 50/55 Even though he has advanced feel for contact, the Royals have been pretty conservative with Garcia’s developmental track because he’s still so wiry thin and lacking physicality. I’m betting on the frame producing more power long-term, enough that Garcia might be a low-end regular at shortstop. 22. Darryl Collins, LF Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Netherlands (KCR) Age 18.4 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/60 50/55 20/50 45/40 40/50 40/40 Collins is an imposing physical presence with uncommon ball/strike recognition and feel to hit for someone his age. He also tracks pitches well, has precocious barrel control, and natural feel for lift. Collins hit for power in the AZL thanks to his feel for quality contact and raw strength, but his lower half isn’t well-incorporated into his swing yet, so I think there’s room for more in-game power via mechanical adjustment rather than through lots of physical growth. Because Collins is already pretty big and strong (though it’s important to note he’s limber and athletic, not bulky and stiff), he doesn’t have as much physical room on his frame as is typical for a hitter this age, but he does have a little bit. The positional limitations create greater risk of bust because Collins needs to really mash to profile as a corner outfielder, but early indications are that he’s talented enough to do that. 23. Grant Gambrell, RHP Drafted: 3rd Round, 2019 from Oregon State (KCR) Age 22.4 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/55 50/55 45/55 40/50 91-94 / 96 At his best, Gambrell sits in the mid-90s with a plus breaking ball and a tailing, mid-80s changeup that he uses in some clever ways, including as a means to jam righties. His stuff has been inconsistent and he missed considerable time with injury during college, which creates some relief risk. His stuff plays in a more traditional power pitcher style than most of the sinkerballers in this org. 24. Ryan McBroom, 1B Drafted: 15th Round, 2014 from West Virginia (TOR) Age 28.0 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 235 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 50/50 60/60 55/55 30/30 45/45 45/45 McBroom was one of several upper-level sluggers who the Yankees acquired, seemingly to build depth behind oft-injured first baseman Greg Bird. The emergence of Luke Voit meant the club could move McBroom to a rebuilding team willing to take a flier on an older stopgap, and the Royals traded international bonus pool space for him last summer. It’s likely that, given his age, McBroom’s window for productivity as some kind of part-time first base/outfield platoon bat is relatively small, but he does have the hit/power combination needed to succeed in such a role for a couple of years. 25. Charlie Neuweiler, RHP Drafted: 5th Round, 2017 from Monsignor McClancy HS (NY) (KCR) Age 21.1 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Splitter Command Sits/Tops 40/40 55/60 50/55 45/55 88-92 / 93 He doesn’t throw all that hard, but Neuweiler’s control and command are both improving (he arguably has late projection in that regard because of his cold weather prep background) and his heater sinks enough to keep hitters from destroying it every time he misses. He also has two great secondary pitches in a knuckle slurve that spans a pretty wide velocity band in the upper-70s and low-to-mid-80s, and a change with late bottom that spins so little I’ve got it classified as a splitter; I’m not exactly sure what kind of grip he uses, though the improvement is so stark that he may have a fresh grip altogether now. I’m optimistic about more control/command coming late and think Neuweiler will end up pitching in the back of a rotation. 26. Yohanse Morel, RHP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (WAS) Age 19.6 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/50 45/50 55/60 40/50 89-93 / 94 Morel had just arrived in the U.S. last year when the Nationals sent him to Kansas City as part of the Kelvin Herrera trade. At age 17, Morel performed against older competition while being asked to adjust to a new country and parent organization at the same time. His stuff was still strong in the fall, when he was 90-94 with a mid-80s, split-action changeup that was often plus. He’s not physically projectable, but he’s athletic and has some traits typical of sinker/changeup-centric rotation pieces, and his breaking ball spin rates indicate he may have an average breaker one day, too. That would make it easier for him to start. 27. Jeison Guzman, SS Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (KCR) Age 21.5 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 45/50 45/45 30/35 55/55 55/60 60/60 Now 21, Guzman has filled out and developed 45 raw power while maintaining excellent defense at shortstop. He has yet to play anywhere else, but because he falls short of profiling as a regular there on the offensive end, it’s likely he starts to see time at other positions soon — especially because he’s now on the 40-man — so he can be a versatile bench infield option. 28. Brewer Hicklen, LF Drafted: 7th Round, 2017 from UAB (KCR) Age 24.1 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 208 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/40 55/55 40/45 70/70 50/55 55/55 Even though he’s 24, 2019 was only Hicklen’s second full year focusing solely on baseball, as he’d been a two-sport athlete of sorts at UAB, where he would have played football had the program been active while he was there. His statistical performance, despite his age, becomes much more impressive in this context. Hicklen has hit .280/.370/.470 as a pro. All of that has been in A-ball, save for the 2019 Fall League, during which Hicklen struggled. His swing is very short and linear and he generates sizable power anyway, but his bat path doesn’t really allow it to play. Barring a very late jump in skills and instincts, he’s a bench outfielder sort. 29. Michael Massey, 2B Drafted: 4th Round, 2019 from Illinois (KCR) Age 22.0 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/55 45/50 30/45 50/50 45/55 40/40 Massey was in the second round mix coming off his terrific sophomore year at Illinois before a back injury during his junior spring dulled his explosiveness and forced him to DH a bunch. He fell to the fourth round. He struck out in just 10% of his college plate appearances, plays a good second base, and has doubles power. 30. Noah Murdock, RHP Drafted: 7th Round, 2019 from Virginia (KCR) Age 21.6 Height 6′ 8″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/55 55/60 45/50 40/50 90-95 / 97 I think it’s possible that the Royals have begun to place some amount of evaluation emphasis on spin rate without also considering how pitches pair together, which is perhaps how they’ve ended up with several pitchers who have a sinker/curveball mix. Murdock is exactly that. The towering 6-foot-8 righty has huge sink in the low-90s and a sharp breaker. He posted insane groundball numbers during his junior spring at Virginia. His pitches are better in a vacuum than they are together, but there’s at least big league bullpen stuff here. 31. Ismael Aquino, RHP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic (OAK) Age 21.6 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops 60/65 40/45 40/50 30/40 93-96 / 98 Acquired ahead of the 2019 deadline for Jake Diekman, Aquino is a young relief prospect whose profile is driven by arm strength. He’ll sit 93-97 and occasionally fool a hitter with his circle change, but everything else about him lacks consistency, especially his fastball command and breaking ball. The A’s toyed with a cutter for Aquino at one point but scrapped that a month or two before he was traded; it seems like the Royals brought it back after they acquired him, as the pitch went from the slidery low-80s into the 85-88 mph range. 35+ FV Prospects 32. Josh Staumont, RHP Drafted: 2nd Round, 2015 from Azusa Pacific (KCR) Age 26.3 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Command Sits/Tops 70/70 60/60 30/30 93-98 / 100 After spending most of the past three seasons stagnant in Omaha, Staumont finally got about 20 big league innings last year. By now you know his stuff is ridiculous. He would sit 96-99 and touch 101 or 102 in college, and he also has a dastardly curveball, but he’s a six or seven walks per nine guy, and hasn’t been able to make headway in the control/command realm as a pro. 33. Yefri Del Rosario, RHP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (KCR*) Age 20.5 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/55 50/55 40/50 35/50 91-94 / 96 One of the more talented prospects cut loose by the Braves during their international scandal, Del Rosario’s fastball creeps into the mid-90s, and he has a good curveball and a sturdy build that is admittedly less projectable than is typical for a 19-year-old. His strike-throwing took a step forward in 2018, before he missed all of 2019 with a nerve issue. His profile already included fairly significant relief risk made more likely by the injury and how that compresses his developmental timeline. 34. Jon Heasley, RHP Drafted: 13th Round, 2018 from Oklahoma State (KCR) Age 23.2 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/45 55/60 40/45 45/50 91-94 / 96 Heasley was a draft-eligible sophomore who simply didn’t pitch all that well in college, the sort of player draft models are only on if they incorporate pitch data (Heasley’s slider spin rates are plus-plus), or if a scout likes the player despite mediocre performance, which is the case here. Heasley moved from the Oklahoma State bullpen to the rotation as a sophomore, but still walked a batter every other inning and gave up more hits than anyone with his quality of stuff should give up in college. It’s been night and day in pro ball, and Heasley now looks like a 40-man inventory arm, and may end up fitting cleanly as a fifth starter. 35. Foster Griffin, LHP Drafted: 1st Round, 2014 from First Academy HS (FL) (KCR) Age 24.7 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / L FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 40/40 55/55 50/55 50/55 87-91 / 93 There have been stretches during Griffin’s pro career when either his command or velocity have slipped a tad, and he’s been knocked around. When both are fine, he’s a good pitchability lefty who feeds hitters a steady diet of secondary pitches. Often, this type of hurler becomes Tommy Milone, but Griffin’s curveball is a little better than that (though Milone has a good cutter); more often, this type of pitcher is used in a multi-inning relief role after a power pitcher has opened the game. Barring that, I have Griffin in as a No. 5/6 starter. 36. Drew Parrish, LHP Drafted: 8th Round, 2019 from Florida State (KCR) Age 22.3 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 35/40 50/55 50/55 40/50 87-90 / 92 Parrish’s velo was on the rise just before the draft, averaging just over 90 for the first time in his career, but in the postseason was back to 87-91 when he had to rely more on his secondary stuff. That’s probably the approach he’ll need to take going forward, as both his changeup and curveball are better offerings than the heater. He projects as a fifth/sixth starter barring an unforeseen bump in velocity. It’s also possible the command ends up as plus and Parrish just grabs hold of a rotation spot of his own that way. 37. Omar Hernandez, C Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Spain (KCR) Age 18.3 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/55 35/40 20/40 30/30 45/55 55/55 The Spanish-born Hernandez is an athletic catch-and-throw prospect with advanced contact skills but limited power projection because of his shorter build. Hernandez also has some experience at third base. He could be a plus hit/plus glove catcher but teenage catching is perhaps the riskiest prospect demographic. 38. Daniel Tillo, LHP Drafted: 3rd Round, 2017 from Iowa Western JC (KCR) Age 23.8 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/60 50/50 40/45 35/40 92-95 / 97 Tillo is a low-slot, sinkerballing relief prospect whose lack of control undermines the playability of his secondary stuff. He’ll likely be up and down during his option years. 39. Samuel Valerio, RHP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (KCR) Age 18.5 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/70 40/45 45/50 30/45 94-97 / 99 This is the hardest-throwing pitcher on this list, a teenager whose fastball is parked in the 94-97 range already. But the cement is pretty dry on Valerio’s frame, and his is a sinker/fringe slider profile that needs changeup and command growth for him to have any hope of starting. This is a long-term relief prospect with special arm strength for his age. 40. Adam Lukas, RHP Drafted: 12th Round, 2019 from Evansville (KCR) Age 21.7 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Lukas didn’t pitch at a rookie or short season affiliate after the draft but he was throwing absolute cheddar in the fall, touching 99 during instructs. He’s a bigger bodied guy in the young Jonathan Broxton/Sidney Ponson realm, so that’s worth keeping an eye on. Usable control and a secondary pitch need to develop, but because the velocity is so big, there’s a chance Lukas really pops. 41. Omar Florentino, SS Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (KCR) Age 18.4 Height 5′ 9″ Weight 135 Bat / Thr S / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/55 30/40 20/35 60/60 45/55 45/50 Signed for $750,000, Florentino is a little spark plug with elite short-area quickness and 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 is limited by his size. 42. John Rave, CF Drafted: 5th Round, 2019 from Illinois State (KCR) Age 22.3 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/50 40/45 30/40 60/60 45/55 45/45 Rave has tweener bench outfield tools. He’s a plus runner with a swing geared for low ball contact and he actually hit for power on the Cape, but the raw pop is south of average and we’re probably looking at a fourth outfielder here, unless Rave outhits my tool grades. 43. Woo-Young Jin, RHP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from South Korea (KCR) Age 19.1 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Splitter Command Sits/Tops 30/40 40/45 55/70 35/50 85-88 / 91 This is the prospect on the list whose attached video I’d most encourage readers to watch, since Jin’s genie-like ability to make his splitter slide out from between his fingers without rotating is incredible to watch on the high speed camera. He also throws a lot of them. Jin needs to reshape his build and throw harder to be anything, but he’s young enough that it might happen. Other Prospects of Note Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category. More Arm Strength Andres Machado, RHP Stephen Woods Jr., RHP Conner Greene, RHP Franco Terrero, RHP Yunior Marte, RHP Janser Lara, RHP Anderson Paulino, RHP Most of these pitchers are in their mid-20s and have premium velocity. Machado is 93-95, touching 97, with sink and an average slider. Stephen Woods was the team’s Rule 5 pick; his full report is here. Conner Greene was once a big time prospect and he still throws really hard, up to 98. Marte is 25, he’s 93-97, and has a really fast arm. He pitched well out of the Double- and Triple-A bullpens last year. Terrero, 24, is similar but has a longer arm action. Lara didn’t pitch in 2019 but was up to 99 the fall before and has a 2800 rpm breaking ball. Paulino is younger (just 21) and is up to 96, but needs a second pitch. Burners Michael Gigliotti, CF Dairon Blanco, CF Nick Heath, CF Diego Hernandez, CF Kevin Merrell, 2B This is one of the few remaining orgs still obsessed with speed. Gigliotti has the best approach and contact skills of this group but he’s performed against competition much younger than him and has been hurt a lot. Blanco posted big exit velos last year (92 on average) but it was as a 26-year-old in Double-A. He’s a true 80 runner. So is Nick Heath, who might be the only minor leaguer who wouldn’t trade bodies with Luis Robert. Heath is a slash-and-dash hitter who might be a fifth outfielder. Diego Hernandez is more of a 55 runner but his instincts in center are very good, which is partly why KC pushed him to Burlington at age 19. Bench/Depth Sorts Erick Mejia, UTIL Gerson Garabito, RHP Scott Blewett, RHP Sebastian Rivero, C Freddy Fermin, C Jimmy Govern, 3B Emmanuel Rivera, 3B Mejia is a 26th man type who can play all over the place. Garabito and Blewett are strike-throwing innings eaters with quality breaking balls; either could make spot starts. Rivero has a really athletic swing for a catcher but he has 40 power. Fermin is a really athletic catch-and-throw guy. Both project as third catchers on a 40-man. Govern was a small school college guy who raked against AZL pitching and then was listed as a catcher on the instructional league roster. Rivera has a plus bat but is positionless. Sleepers Austin Lambright, LHP Rylan Kaufman, LHP Rothaikeg Seijas, OF Tyshaun Chapman, RHP Lambright and Kaufman are lefties with relief potential. Lambright was up to 95 last year, while Kaufman barely pitched but looked great in during 2018 instructs. Seijas had the highest average exit velos among Royals DSL hitters but he has almost no body projection. Chapman is a small school arm with control problems, but he’ll touch 95 and has above-average breaking ball spin rates. System Overview This system has gotten much better over the last couple of seasons and almost all of it has been accomplished through shrewd drafting. A few of the lesser prospects were acquired from Oakland and Washington in deals for relief pitching, but mostly the org has been stockpiling solid college arms for the last couple of years. This isn’t an org that others around baseball would mention as being among the most progressive of their rivals, and there’s evidence they’re both right and wrong about that impression. First, a surprisingly high number of these college pitchers have high breaking ball spin rates, which are typically coveted in the draft, especially among college arms whose pitch data is more frequently captured by tech. Why then have the Royals ended up with so many? Well, a lot of them have fastballs with sinker orientation that pair sub-optimally with big-arcing breakers. Kansas City has also altered some players for the better after acquiring them. Jackson Kowar, Ismael Aquino, and Noah Murdock all had their breaking balls altered after the Royals got a hold of them, and the org seems particularly adept at killing spin on changeups, though they may also just target pitchers who throw splitters more often than most teams. Finally, they let their starting pitching prospects throw a lot of innings. Kansas City had 14 minor league pitchers throw at least 120 innings last year, tied for the most in baseball with Seattle. There are a handful of orgs who had about 10 pitchers carry workloads that heavy in the minors, but typically teams only have four to seven arms who do so.