Top 51 Prospects: Kansas City Royals by Eric Longenhagen May 3, 2021 Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Kansas City Royals. Scouting reports were compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. As there was no minor league season in 2020, there are some instances where no new information was gleaned about a player. Players whose write-ups have not been meaningfully altered begin by telling you so. Each blurb ends with an indication of where the player played in 2020, which in turn likely informed the changes to their report if there were any. As always, I’ve leaned more heavily on sources from outside of a given org than those within for reasons of objectivity. Because outside scouts were not allowed at the alternate sites, I’ve primarily focused on data from there, and the context of that data, in my opinion, reduces how meaningful it is. Lastly, in an effort to more clearly indicate relievers’ anticipated roles, you’ll see two reliever designations, both on my lists and on The Board: MIRP, or multi-inning relief pitcher, and SIRP, or single-inning relief pitcher. 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 Future Value’s merits and drawbacks, read Future Value. 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 2021 2020 ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG Royals Top Prospects Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV 1 Bobby Witt Jr. 20.9 R SS 2022 60 2 Asa Lacy 21.9 R SP 2022 55 3 Daniel Lynch 24.5 A+ SP 2021 50 4 Alec Marsh 23.0 R SP 2023 45+ 5 Kyle Isbel 24.2 MLB RF 2021 45 6 Nick Loftin 22.6 R SS 2023 45 7 Erick Pena 18.2 R CF 2025 45 8 Jackson Kowar 24.6 AA SIRP 2022 45 9 Jeison Guzmán 22.6 A SS 2022 45 10 Angel Zerpa 21.6 R SP 2022 40+ 11 Jonathan Bowlan 24.4 A+ SP 2022 40+ 12 John McMillon 23.3 R SIRP 2023 40+ 13 MJ Melendez 22.4 A+ C 2022 40+ 14 Nick Pratto 22.6 A+ 1B 2022 40+ 15 Austin Cox 24.1 A+ MIRP 2022 40+ 16 Jake Brentz 26.6 MLB SIRP 2021 40+ 17 Carlos Hernández 24.1 MLB SIRP 2021 40 18 Wilmin Candelario 19.6 R SS 2024 40 19 Tyler Gentry 22.3 R RF 2024 40 20 Josh Dye 24.6 A+ MIRP 2022 40 21 Grant Gambrell 23.5 R MIRP 2023 40 22 Christian Chamberlain 21.8 R SIRP 2024 40 23 Darryl Collins 19.5 R LF 2024 40 24 Daniel Vasquez 17.1 R SS 2025 40 25 Ben Hernandez 19.8 R SIRP 2025 40 26 Yohanse Morel 20.7 A MIRP 2022 40 27 Kelvin Gutierrez 26.7 MLB 3B 2021 40 28 Lucius Fox 23.8 AAA SS 2021 40 29 Jon Heasley 24.3 A SIRP 2022 40 30 Charlie Neuweiler 22.2 A SP 2022 40 31 Michael Massey 23.1 R 2B 2023 40 32 Ronald Bolaños 24.7 MLB SP 2021 40 33 Noah Murdock 22.7 R SP 2023 40 34 Brewer Hicklen 25.2 A+ LF 2021 40 35 Ismael Aquino 22.7 AAA SIRP 2023 40 36 Collin Snider 25.6 A+ SIRP 2022 35+ 37 Carlos Sanabria 24.3 MLB SIRP 2021 35+ 38 Yefri Del Rosario 21.6 A SIRP 2021 35+ 39 Omar Hernandez 19.4 R C 2024 35+ 40 Samuel Valerio 19.6 R SIRP 2024 35+ 41 Anderson Paulino 22.6 R MIRP 2023 35+ 42 Anthony Veneziano 23.7 R SIRP 2023 35+ 43 Zach Haake 24.6 A SIRP 2022 35+ 44 Omar Florentino 19.5 R SS 2024 35+ 45 Eduardo Herrera 21.3 A- SIRP 2023 35+ 46 Drew Parrish 23.4 R SP 2023 35+ 47 Seuly Matias 22.7 A+ RF 2022 35+ 48 Maikel Garcia 21.2 R SS 2023 35+ 49 Woo-Young Jin 20.2 R SP 2024 35+ 50 Tyler Tolbert 23.3 R SS 2023 35+ 51 Daniel Tillo 24.9 AA SIRP 2021 35+ Reading Options Detail Level Data Only Full Position Filter All All C 1B 2B SS 3B OF LF CF RF LHP RHP 60 FV Prospects 1. Bobby Witt Jr., SS Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Coleyville Heritage HS (TX) (KCR) Age 20.9 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 60 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/45 60/65 25/60 60/60 50/60 70 How much contact does Bobby Witt Jr. need to make to be a star? Even with a raucous 2021 spring performance on his ledger, there are reasonable concerns among pro scouts who saw him about how often he’s going to swing and miss. None of this is new. Witt swung and missed a lot during his showcase summer but his subsequent fall and spring were strong enough to make him the second overall pick of the 2019 draft class, and he’s the type of talent who’d be a threat to go first in most drafts. His skillset compares quite closely to Trevor Story‘s. There are going to be some strikeouts here because Witt’s swing path makes it hard for him to get to pitches down and in, but his combination of defensive fit and game power make him a likely impact player anyway. He’s is a big, athletic young guy who moves so well that he makes the field look small when he’s running the bases or ranging for a grounder, and he is very likely to not only stay at shortstop but be quite good there. He also has a swing geared for pullside 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 career laden with very high expectations, which Witt has always met and often exceeded. His 2019 pro debut statline lacked power on the surface, but the batted ball data from that year and this spring suggests we shouldn’t worry about that. (Alternate site) 55 FV Prospects 2. Asa Lacy, SP Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Texas A&M (KCR) Age 21.9 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / L FV 55 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/70 60/70 55/60 45/50 30/45 93-96 / 98 There are folks in baseball who think Lacy had a strong argument to be the first overall pick in the 2020 draft based on the way his stuff dominated SEC hitters for three years, with their thinking being that Lacy’s relief risk was about as scary as Torkelson’s need to rake to justify being a 1-1 first baseman. Though he struggled with walks after he moved into the Aggies rotation in 2019, Lacy whiffed 130 hitters in just 88 innings. He was less wild in his brief 2020 four-start jaunt prior to the shutdown, punctuating his pre-draft run with a 13-strikeout game against New Mexico State and fellow top five pick Nick Gonzales. Lacy presents scouts with a non-traditional mechanical look that makes his delivery appear pretty violent around his head and shoulders, even though he has less of a head whack now than he did in high school and as an underclassman. While his delivery creates some perceived relief risk (he’d be one hell of a reliever), there is none regarding the pitch mix. Lacy’s arm slot creates backspin on the fastball that enables it to have big carry at the top of the zone, his slider has remarkable length for how hard it is, and when Lacy gets on top of his curveball, it has huge, bat-missing depth. The delivery also disorients hitters who take lots of bad, awkward swings at pitches that live in the middle of the zone. His changeup (which Lacy sets up with a two-seamer) occasionally looks good, and might be a real out pitch if it’s re-emphasized in pro ball; I thought it was his most polished secondary weapon when I saw him in high school, though I don’t have any delusions about it becoming his best weapon now since his breaking stuff is so good. Kansas City seems to have eyes on competing and they’ve pushed their college draftees lately, so it’s possible Lacy will move very quickly. His first minor league spring training outing, in which he was up to 98 and sitting 94 and above, suggests he’s ready for such an ascent. His elite stuff and mediocre command give off a Blake Snell vibe. (Alternate site) 50 FV Prospects 3. Daniel Lynch, SP Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Virginia (KCR) Age 24.5 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/60 50/55 50/50 45/55 40/50 91-95 / 97 Lynch’s velocity slowly climbed over the two years prior to the pandemic. On the Cape and during the first half of his junior spring at Virginia, Lynch looked like a solid third round prospect, a pitchability lefty sitting 88-92 mph with mostly average stuff. In the month or so leading up to the 2018 draft, his 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. He then sat 93-95 during the summer of 2019 and was often 94-97 during the 2019 Fall League, where he went to pick up innings after missing time with an arm injury. Lynch still brings big lefty velo (four- and two-seamers) to the party, as well as a bevy of solid secondary pitches. He throws a spike slider, curveball (really just a release variation on the slider, based on my 2019 high speed footage), and changeup. They’re all mostly average, but the slider flashes plus and I think the changeup has room for growth. There are some questions about his fastball’s playability but I think the velocity and the repertoire depth here make Lynch a very safe mid-rotation sort who’ll likely contribute to the Royals rotation this year. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League) 45+ FV Prospects 4. Alec Marsh, SP Drafted: 2nd Round, 2019 from Arizona State (KCR) Age 23.0 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 35/50 94-97 / 100 The velo spike that Marsh first exhibited while pitching in the Constellation Energy League last year held through 2021 spring training, and he’s a very obvious candidate to have a statistical breakout this season because of the new heat. He was up to 100 last summer and I didn’t see a fastball below 96 during any of my spring looks. He’s went from a Pac-12 pitchability guy to an upper-90s bully within a couple of months. Visibly stronger in the upper body, Marsh attacks the zone with his newfound velocity and mixes in a lot of sliders, which typically sit about 86 mph. His glove-side command of that pitch is very good, and its angle makes it an effective backfoot weapon against lefties. He has some release variation when he throws his curveball but that pitch clearly has utility as a get-me-over strike. While I saw few of them during the spring, Marsh would flash an occasional above-average changeup while he was at ASU, a pitch that has much more effective movement toward the arm-side corner of the plate. Assuming Marsh hasn’t lost touch and feel for that changeup via his newfound strength and velo, he’s going to have a viable four-pitch mix and be a lock to start. He’ll likely move into the top 100 if he can hold the big heat while taking the ball every fifth day during the season. (Constellation Energy League, Alternate site) 45 FV Prospects 5. Kyle Isbel, RF Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2018 from UNLV (KCR) Age 24.2 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 183 Bat / Thr L / R FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 45/50 50/50 40/45 50/50 60/60 50 If you just look at his 2019 statline, it feels like Isbel made some kind of dramatic leap in skill, which in turn facilitated his 2021 debut. But due mostly to injury, you can toss out his 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. Then he spent 2020 at the alternate site (Kansas City opted out of data/video sharing) before his hot 2021 spring training earned him a spot on the Royals’ Opening Day roster. If there is a more recent reason to alter Isbel’s evaluation, it’s been his ability to play center field. He got pretty consistent reps there during spring training and looked perfectly fine. I think he’ll be supplanted by a superior defensive center fielder (as is currently the case, with Michael A. Taylor getting big league time instead of Isbel) but will be a plus corner defender. That gives him a little more room to play every day since Isbel is more likely to be a solid offensive player than a spectacular one, with the kind of output typical of a corner guy. He’s a compact athlete with a compact swing, which helps him impact pitches middle-in and down. His home run damage comes to his pull-side, though Isbel’s 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. He strikes me as a consistent role player, the larger half of a platoon in an outfield corner. He could somewhat outpace that by taking a Josh Reddick trajectory where, because of his defense, he still starts but hits at the bottom of the order against lefties. (Alternate site) 6. Nick Loftin, SS Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Baylor (KCR) Age 22.6 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/50 45/50 30/45 55/55 45/50 60 Loftin is a contact-oriented middle infielder with fringe power but everything else is average to a hair above. He’s a lock to stay at shortstop. His timing and actions around the bag as the pivot man on doubles plays are excellent and he has plenty of arm for the left side of the infield. Offensively, Loftin will hit the occasional pull-side tank that makes you think he has big power, but he really only has it to that dead pull side. He’ll concede some power in order to poke and serve balls the other way but he’s much less likely to do damage that way, and I think he’ll be someone opposing teams can pitch to in pro ball and limit damage. Loftin went bonkers at a big college tournament in Houston just before the shutdown, and his name was mentioned as high as the middle of the first round, probably for an underslot deal. Late during the first night of the draft, rumors were circulating that a team in the comp round was trying to float Loftin back to them with an overslot deal (I’m not sure if it was KC) and that most teams toward the back of round one had to weigh taking him despite this and daring him not to take slot. He ended up with KC and played at 2020 instructs, then looked really good during 2021 minor league spring training despite playing with a wrap around his hand in several of my looks. He projects as a low-end everyday shortstop. (Fall Instructional League) 7. Erick Pena, CF Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2019 from Dominican Republic (KCR) Age 18.2 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 199 Bat / Thr L / R FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/45 45/60 25/55 55/55 50/50 55 I’m hitting the breaks on Pena in a sense. I think he has a chance to be an everyday player but I also think it’s very unlikely that he ends up having the sort of meteoric rise some other recent teenage superstar players and prospects have had. When you see Pena in a uniform, you can see where the bonus went and how the hype was born. This is a big, strapping young man built like a Division I safety who stands apart from other kids due to his physicality. That size and strength helps enable Pena to rip the bat through the zone with notable raw power for his age but that hasn’t really manifested in consistent in-game production in my scattered looks at him, which date back to 2019 Instructs. Pena’s swing is noisy and long. There’s plenty of time for that to be tweaked if it turns out to be a statistically-evident problem, but in my looks, it has made it so Pena gets jammed pretty often, and makes him late on pitches he shouldn’t be. He’s strong enough to yank weaker contact through the infield for hits anyway, even if a pitch really ties him up, but aside from the occasional golf shot homer, I think it’s going to be tough for him to hit for in-game power with this swing. Now, while I think this problem creates some hit tool risk, there are still huge tools and projection evident in Pena. He’s a big, lefty-hitting teenager with a chance to play center and have impact power. Even if problems with his bat persist, he still has plenty of avenues to a lower-ceiling big league role. (Fall Instructional League) 8. Jackson Kowar, SIRP Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Florida (KCR) Age 24.6 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/60 45/45 70/70 40/45 93-96 / 98 Kowar throws in the mid-90s and has a dominant changeup, so he’s very likely to be an important part of a big league staff fairly soon. His breaking ball quality and his fastball’s shape are flaws that push him toward the bullpen. Kowar’s mid-90s heater has tailing/sinking action rather than carry and ride, which means it’s going to generate groundballs more than it will miss bats. It also means it pairs really well with his changeup’s action but not so much with his curveball, which has a noticeable hump that makes it easy to identify it out of his hand. But that pitch has improved a good bit since Kowar has turned pro. His curveball was comfortably below average in college but the Royals have found a way to add raw spin since acquiring him. His spin rate was up from 2150 rpm to 2400 as of 2019, still shy of big league average. Kowar threw some average curveballs this spring but it’s not a consistent offering, and only has get-me-over utility even when it’s good. I think Kowar’s very well-suited to rely on arm strength and his awesome changeup in a bullpen role, and that he’d be a set-up man in the Ryan Madson mold were he to experience a velo bump in single-inning outings. (Alternate site) 9. Jeison Guzmán, SS Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (KCR) Age 22.6 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr L / R FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 45/50 45/45 30/35 55/55 55/60 60 I’ll speculate that the Royals and Guzmán came to some kind of mutual agreement regarding his roster status, since last winter Kansas City exposed him to free agency in order to clear a 40-man spot but re-signed him to a minor league deal only a week later. He didn’t hit during sporadic big league spring training at-bats but has looked fantastic during minor league play this spring, especially on defense. The Royals added Guzmán to the 40-man after his age-20, 2019 season even though he was overmatched at A-ball that year. In the year and a half since then, he has become considerably more physical without really compromising his defensive ability, and he was still making rangy, acrobatic plays this spring. With the strength has come added power, enough that Guzmán is a real threat to do damage when he makes contact. An expansive approach and grooved pair of swings mean he’ll likely max out with a 40-grade hit tool, but a plus-gloved infielder with mistake power is still a desirable role-player, and also describes a lot of low-end shortstop regulars. (Alternate site, LIDOM) 40+ FV Prospects 10. Angel Zerpa, SP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Venezuela (KCR) Age 21.6 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 40/40 50/55 55/60 35/60 91-93 / 94 After what struck me as a surprise addition to the Royals’ 40-man, fall and spring looks at Zerpa indicate that, yes, he might have gone in the Rule 5 Draft even though he has yet to pitch above rookie ball. Zerpa has good east/west command of three pitches, including a fastball that plays even though it has mediocre velocity. His lower arm angle creates tailing action on his fastball, and his ability to locate it with precision as well as the pitch’s late movement make it a viable offering even though it only sits about 91-93. His two-planed curveball and changeup are both above-average and he locates those, too. He doesn’t throw all that hard, but Zerpa does have two bat-missing weapons and his command keeps his fastball out of trouble. He barely threw with the big league club during the spring even though he’s on the 40-man, which I think is a sign that this guy’s going to be developed as a starter all year rather than quickly moved to the bullpen, where I think he’d be a fit in a multi-inning role. This is a squat-bodied athlete who can really pitch. Some similar pitchers who I’ve really liked in the recent past (like Jaime Barria and José Suarez of the Angels) had pretty abrupt body/athletic regressions that detracted from their command and put them in up/down purgatory. There’s risk that happens here, but if not then I think Zerpa can become a No. 4/5 starter. (Fall Instructional League) 11. Jonathan Bowlan, SP Drafted: 2nd Round, 2018 from Memphis (KCR) Age 24.4 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 is a Leviathan righty with 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. Bowlan’s velocity has been more stable of late, either because he didn’t have a real 2020 workload to deal with or because he’s clearly worked really hard on his conditioning and looks to have lost about 25 pounds. He was 94-97 for me this spring, working mostly with a two-seam bowling ball that induces 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 I think they’ll play, but not as dominant offerings. Bowlan’s changeup will be his best chance to miss bats. He has a fifth starter’s stuff but I’m 40+’ing him because I think he’s going to be an innings-eating force and end up with a little more WAR-based value because of that. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League) 12. John McMillon, SIRP Undrafted Free Agent (KCR) Age 23.3 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops 60/70 50/55 30/35 94-96 / 97 McMillon would have been a high-priority senior sign in the 2020 draft were it not shortened by MLB’s pandemic-inspired cost-saving measures. Instead he signed as an undrafted free agent with Kansas City and is one of several NDFA’s from last year who looks like an absolute steal. 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. When I saw McMillon during 2020 instructs, he was sitting 94-97 with huge carry at the top of the zone. That’s up above where he was during his brief, final few innings at Tech, when he was sitting about 92. McMillon’s slider has bat-missing vertical shape but its quality really varies, as has McMillon’s conviction when he throws it. There’s a late-inning reliever here if McMillon can just cinch up his feel for release consistency. The Royals have a really long developmental runway since McMillon just signed. I don’t really care that he’s already 23, so much as I care (and I think teams care) about his stuff and the fact that he doesn’t have to be put on the 40-man for quite a while. His trade value and upside both push him into the 40+ tier for me. (Fall Instructional League) 13. MJ Melendez, C Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Westminster Christian HS (FL) (KCR) Age 22.4 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 I want to take a long view on Melendez, who I saw get extended on fastballs away from him and hit two big opposite field homers this spring. He is going to strike out a ton, too much to be an everyday catcher at the start of his career, but because he has plus power and an unusually good body for a backstop, I think he’ll hang around forever and have some seasons toward the back end of his pre-free agency years when he is among the home run leaders at his position. Until then, he’s more of a bat-first backup. Melendez had a reputation as an advanced high school defender but things haven’t played out that way in pro ball. He’s a mediocre receiver and pitch-framer (to my eye, that is; I haven’t seen his framing metrics) and he struggles to keep blocked pitches in front of him, with the ball skittering away from him like a hockey goalie who gives up bigger rebounds. Some of this stuff won’t matter in a couple of years when the game moves to electronic strike zones, but some of it needs to get better, too. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League) 14. Nick Pratto, 1B Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from Huntington Beach HS (CA) (KCR) Age 22.6 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 40/45 55/55 45/55 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 with a bevy of secondary skills like Pratto, don’t have the luxury of whiffing that often and still becoming big leaguers because the offensive bar at the position is too high. But Pratto has now altered his swing (his stance is open and he has a leg kick now, most notably) and had a huge spring, punishing fastballs at the top of the zone with power. Pratto is geared for this kind of contact now, as he collapses his back side to create lift and just swings as hard as he can at fastballs in this area. He’s always had a good feel for the zone and his ability to pick out pitches he can drive is quite good, so I like his chances of continuing to tattoo fastballs at the top of the zone, but I also think Pratto is still really vulnerable to back foot breaking stuff and fastballs running away from him with this swing. I’ve moved him into the 40+ tier because there’s a pretty significant mechanical change that has coincided with a short-term leap in unofficial performance. Maybe Pratto just needs time to gain feel for moving the barrel around the zone with this new swing, but I still think he is more likely to wind up in a platoon first base/power bench bat role. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League) 15. Austin Cox, MIRP Drafted: 5th Round, 2018 from Mercer (KCR) Age 24.1 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 235 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/50 50/50 50/50 50/55 30/40 89-93 / 95 My look at Cox this spring was not good. He showed mediocre velocity and control, constantly pronating around his fastballs so much that his pitches were sailing off to his arm side. I’m trying not to let single-look bias impact how I see him too much, as Cox still has a viable four-pitch mix that I think fits nicely in a multi-inning relief role. He also weighed in at 195 on my last update, 243 last fall and 235 this spring, so it looks like there’s some quarantine variation happening here. I would like to see him either a) dial in his command or b) exhibit some kind of velo bump out of the bullpen at some point early this year to keep him in the 40+ tier, though. He was up to 93, sitting more 88-90 with the fastball, and still has good-looking secondary stuff, especially the changeup, which has bat-missing action. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League) 16. Jake Brentz, SIRP Drafted: 11th Round, 2013 from Parkway South HS (MO) (TOR) Age 26.6 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/60 50/55 40/40 50/50 95-97 / 100 The last time Brentz appeared on a prospect list at this site was on the 2017 Pirates list, when he was described as a guy who could touch 100 but who had 20-grade control. Brentz has hopped around — Toronto, Seattle, Pittsburgh, now Kansas City — and his velo was down in the 91-94 range in 2019, but he has one of the faster lefty arms scouts saw in Arizona this spring, prompting one source of mine to compare his arm action to Billy Wagner‘s. Brentz touched 101 on the stadium gun the first time I saw him (100 on a scout’s gun near me) and he never threw a fastball below 95 mph in any of my three looks at him. His feel for locating his slider improved as the spring went on and he now spots it to his glove side pretty consistently. It looks pretty average on its own but it has good back foot angle against righties and is really tough to react to when you’re geared up for an upper-90s fastball. Premium lefty bullpen arm strength and a solid breaking ball make Brentz a middle-relief fit. It’s possible he ends up pitching in leveraged situations but I don’t see a dominant offering here that makes me want to anticipate that. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League) 40 FV Prospects 17. Carlos Hernández, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Venezuela (KCR) Age 24.1 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/60 45/45 45/45 45/45 95-98 / 100 When Hernandez first really began generating buzz during instructs a couple of years ago, he was “only” sitting 94-98. He’s throwing even harder now, sitting 96-99 and getting up to 100. Hernandez brings premium arm strength from a relief-only look. He’s a below-average athlete with a long arm swing and is a good example of pitcher with good fastball control (lots of strikes) but not command (not in precise locations). His secondaries (a low-80s curveball and upper-80s changeup) are more reliant on location to miss bats. I think the changeup is the better pure offering but Hernandez has more consistent feel for the curve. Something with his secondaries needs to improve if he’s going to be a late-inning, impact relief piece, so I have him projected in a foundational middle-inning role, the kind of reliever who just lives on your roster rather than one the club is willing to option for a fresh, similar option. (Alternate site, MLB) 18. Wilmin Candelario, SS Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (KCR) Age 19.6 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 60/60 40/55 60 I had a brief look at Candelario this spring, and he certainly looks the part in uniform, but he looked overmatched playing in the Hi-A game I caught. It’s not enough to alter his evaluation in any way. A source who saw Kansas City’s DSL group in 2019 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. (At-home dev) 19. Tyler Gentry, RF Drafted: 3rd Round, 2020 from Alabama (KCR) Age 22.3 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 has a Jordan Luplow vibe, a part-time, righty-hitting outfielder with power. Though he runs well, his defensive feel and instincts are below-average and at times he’s an adventure out there in right field. But Gentry has a shot to profile in a corner because of his power, and his hit tool’s potential. This spring, I saw him hit with power to both his pull-side and to the opposite field. He really likes to get extended and swing at stuff on the outer half, and Gentry has good vertical plate coverage because when he swings, he adjusts the bend in his lower half the same way lots of the Dodgers hitters do. After a freshman season at Walters State Junior College, Gentry transferred to Alabama and had a pretty solid sophomore year, though his 5-to-1 strikeout/walk ratio was a little scary. He came out of the gates really hot in 2020 and walked as often as he struck out, but that was only a four-week sample. The talent to do consistent damage is there, it’s just that right field is a tough profile and there’s a shorter (and arguably flawed) statistical track record here. (At-home dev) 20. Josh Dye, MIRP Drafted: 23th Round, 2018 from Florida Gulf Coast (KCR) Age 24.6 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 35/40 50/50 55/55 50/60 88-91 / 92 Dye is a super funky, low-slot lefty who body comps to Ichabod Crane. His sinker lives in the low-90s and has movement that, on paper, is the left-handed version of Brady Singer’s sinker. Dye hammers the strike zone with this sinker and commands his sweepy breaking balls and tailing changeup to both sides of the plate. His delivery is going to eat lefties alive and he can get righties out with a junk-baller’s approach to pitching. The Royals have used him as a multi-inning reliever to this point and I think he fits in that role long-term thanks largely to his east/west command and mechanical funk. (Fall Instructional League) 21. Grant Gambrell, MIRP Drafted: 3rd Round, 2019 from Oregon State (KCR) Age 23.5 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/55 55/60 45/50 30/40 91-94 / 96 At his best, Gambrell sits in the mid-90s with a plus breaking ball (there might be two, but if so, they’ve run together in my looks) 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. We’re talking about a pitcher who only worked about four innings per outing during his sophomore year, and struggled when the Royals asked him to work as a starter and blow way past his previous single-year innings total after they drafted him in 2019. But Gambrell was sitting 94-96 during 2021 spring action and looked to me to be in much better shape than the last time I saw him. The 2020 layoff means the innings increase piece of Gambrell’s developmental track still feels harrowing, but he has a power-pitcher’s repertoire and a chance to really blow up this year because he came to camp with a totally different body. (At-home dev) 22. Christian Chamberlain, SIRP Drafted: 4th Round, 2020 from Oregon State (KCR) Age 21.8 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 30/40 93-96 / 97 Chamberlain has a lefty power reliever look to him, leaning heavily on mid-90s velocity (he averaged about 92 during his short 2020 pre-draft run at Oregon State but was up to 97 for me this spring) 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. I’m less focused on Chamberlain’s size as a barrier to starting and more fixated on his strike-throwing and lack of repertoire depth. He only threw a handful of changeups in his 2020 starts. It’s more likely that his raw ability to spin the baseball makes him a candidate to add a slider as a third pitch rather than develop the change. Either way, right now he looks more like a quick-moving lefty relief piece. (At-home dev) 23. Darryl Collins, LF Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Netherlands (KCR) Age 19.5 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/55 40/45 20/40 50/50 40/50 40 Collins’ swing has an atypical look and he’s got a top-heavy build (he’s not soft-bodied, just barrel chested and has a really narrow lower body), but every time I see him (2019 AZL, 2021 minor league spring training) he’s taking good at-bats, hitting well-struck liners all over the field, and eating up a lot of ground on the bases once he gets going. There’s not big power here, even though he is a very physical 19-year-old, and the combination of those two traits concerns scouts who think he’ll need to develop more power to profile as a corner outfielder. 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 physical growth. Mostly, I like how Collins tracks pitches and his barrel feel. Hitting is the most important thing and I think Collins can do that, so he has a good chance to be a role-player of some kind. (At-home dev) 24. Daniel Vasquez, SS Signed: July 2nd Period, 2021 from Dominican Republic (KCR) Age 17.1 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 20/50 55/55 35/45 60 Kansas City’s top 2021 international signee, Vazquez is a very long-levered, projectable shortstop with a sweet 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. He’s a priority Extended and Instructs evaluation. (International signee) 25. Ben Hernandez, SIRP Drafted: 2nd Round, 2020 from De La Salle HS (IL) (KCR) Age 19.8 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 60/70 25/45 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 at PG National, then up to 95 during a 2020 pre-season workout. Hernandez works with an easy-looking delivery that he doesn’t always repeat. His cambio is already plus and he looks comfortable using it against righty batters. Based on his age and relative physical maturity, I only see a further velo spike if he moves to the bullpen, and based on my in-person looks at his strike-throwing, I think that’s likely for Hernandez. Mid-90s with an angle and a plus-plus changeup is a really good reliever. (Fall Instructional League) 26. Yohanse Morel, MIRP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (WSN) Age 20.7 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/45 45/50 55/60 35/50 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, he 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. His breaking ball spin rates indicate he may have an average breaker one day, too, and his slider looked better to my eye during 2021 spring training, flashing average; that would make it easier for him to start. Based on his arm slot and the movement it creates on his fastball, I like Morel more as middle-inning “look” reliever. His split is a real weapon but I think his next-best trait is deception, which plays better once through the order than as a starter. (Fall Instructional League) 27. Kelvin Gutierrez, 3B Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Dominican Republic (WAS) Age 26.7 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 45/45 55/55 40/40 40/40 60/60 60 It’s possible Gutierrez will get a 2021 shot to supplant Hunter Dozier, who has only had one good season, but Dozier had a good spring and Guti was beaten out for an opening day bench spot by Hanser Alberto. Though he has some clear tools, Gutierrez lacks an obvious role. A no-doubt plus defender at third base (he has great range, feet, hands, arm strength, and an internal clock), Gutierrez also had some of the best TrackMan data in this system in 2019 but doesn’t elicit great visual evaluations as a hitter. His swing is a little long, he fouls off a lot of hittable pitches, and he’s a bit of a free-swinger. He may be a nice multi-positional infield role player but he’ll need to start seeing consistent time at other positions to do that. He may end up being squeezed off the roster and getting a shot on a rebuilding club with a more obvious path to playing time. (Alternate site, MLB, LIDOM) 28. Lucius Fox, SS Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Bahamas (SFG) Age 23.8 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr S / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 40/50 40/40 30/30 70/70 45/50 55 Somehow, despite his relative lack of power, the most consistent aspect of Fox’s performance has been on the offensive end of things. As reports of the quality of his defense have waxed and waned over the last three years, he’s posted an above-average offensive line at each of the last three affiliates at which he’s spent most of the season. That includes a 104 wRC+ in a depressed 2019 Southern League, where the average hitter’s line was .243/.318/.366. Despite major league-average exit velocities, Fox’s contact quality isn’t great, and he has an OBP-driven offensive profile thanks to his keen eye for the zone. He’d need to be a plus shortstop defender to profile as a low-end regular, and while he has looked like it at times, it hasn’t been consistent, and the Rays began moving him all over the infield late in 2019. We still haven’t seen the Royals plans for him since they only just acquired him late last year for Brett Phillips. As a switch-hitter who’s better from the right side (his numbers have been much better as a righty bat the last couple years), I think Fox will play some sort of multi-positional, shorter half of a platoon role while also pinch running. If you think he’s a low-end regular at short, then he’s a 45 FV, but I think it’ll be hard for him to be more than a 1-WAR role player without any impact in the bat. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League) 29. Jon Heasley, SIRP Drafted: 13th Round, 2018 from Oklahoma State (KCR) Age 24.3 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/55 40/45 55/60 35/40 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 was 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. Even though his breaking ball spin rates are so high, I still saw a 40-grade, low-80s curveball this spring and think Heasley’s future is as a fastball (92-95) and changeup middle reliever. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League) 30. Charlie Neuweiler, SP Drafted: 5th Round, 2017 from Monsignor McClancy HS (NY) (KCR) Age 22.2 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 35/55 88-92 / 93 There’s no change here: 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 from the upper-70s to the 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. (Fall Instructional League) 31. Michael Massey, 2B Drafted: 4th Round, 2019 from Illinois (KCR) Age 23.1 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 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. Though he’s a squat guy who doesn’t have the traditional, sleek look in the uniform, Massey has a good shot to be a lefty-hitting utility guy. (Fall Instructional League) 32. Ronald Bolaños, SP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Cuba (SDP) Age 24.7 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/60 45/45 45/45 45/45 40/45 90-96 / 99 It’s not often that “hard-throwing” and “kitchen sink” end up in the same player report but here is Bolaños, who will touch 99 (sit 94) and work with both four- and two-seamers, plus a slider, curveball, changeup, and even a mythically-rare eephus curveball in the upper-60s. None of his secondary stuff is very good and Bolaños has a long arm action that impacts his command, so I have him in a lower-leverage relief role. His starter’s pedigree means he’s rotation depth for now, and there’s a chance he ends up pitching in the back of someone’s rotation via more coherent command if, like so many others, his arm action shortens up and enables better command. (Alternate site, MLB) 33. Noah Murdock, SP Drafted: 7th Round, 2019 from Virginia (KCR) Age 22.7 Height 6′ 8″ Weight 192 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/55 55/55 45/50 40/50 90-95 / 97 Murdock had a pec strain and didn’t throw this spring. He did show a little velo bump during 2020 instructs. His four-pitch mix is headlined by a fastball and curveball that pair like fine wine and american cheese. Sinkers and big curveballs tend not to play great off one another because the latter becomes easy to identify out of hand, but Murdock’s size means the look hitters get at him is anything but typical. He has a TJ in his past and big, lanky guys with arm actions as long as Murdock’s present perceived injury risk. He could be a workhorse backend guy or end up airing it out in the bullpen. Either way, there’s only impact potential here if one of Murdock’s secondaries takes a big leap. (Fall Instructional League) 34. Brewer Hicklen, LF Drafted: 7th Round, 2017 from Alabama-Birmingham (KCR) Age 25.2 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 213 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 There’s no change here: Hicklen needs to perform on paper this year. Even though he’s 25, 2019 was only his 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 he 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. (Fall Instructional League) 35. Ismael Aquino, SIRP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic (OAK) Age 22.7 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. He was again throwing really hard this spring, sitting 96-99 in a shorter outing I caught, but he was also knocked around that day. The floor here feels like an up/down reliever but the arm strength is so special that I’m betting on Aquino to be more than that. (At-home dev) 35+ FV Prospects 36. Collin Snider, SIRP Drafted: 12th Round, 2017 from Vanderbilt (KCR) Age 25.6 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 202 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops 55/55 50/55 50/60 93-95 / 96 Snider’s stuff has some interesting traits and he looked good this spring, exhibiting what would constitute a velo bump if he holds it into the meat of the season. His fastball has long had premium spin but now it’s also hard, sitting 93-95 when I saw him this spring. He locates it, as well as a good slider, really consistently. There’s middle-inning potential here thanks to the command, but I’d like to see how his fastball plays over the early part of the 2021 season since its spin axis (close to 1:30 based on the 2019 data I have) is the kind that tends to make heaters more hittable. (Fall Instructional League) 37. Carlos Sanabria, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2013 from Venezuela (HOU) Age 24.3 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/60 40/40 45/45 50/50 35/40 93-97 / 99 Sanabria was a 40 FV Astros prospect squeezed out of the org by their pitching depth. He’s really slimmed down in the last year or so and showed up to 2021 camp with a brand new body and resurgent velocity. He was sitting 94-97 in my spring looks, though there’s no clear impact secondary weapon here, even though Sanabria has many different pitches. I have an up/down relief grade on him, but think that if Kansas City can coax more out of one of the breaking balls or the changeup he’ll be a more solid middle-inning guy. (Alternate site, MLB) 38. Yefri Del Rosario, SIRP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (KCR*) Age 21.6 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/50 50/55 40/45 35/45 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’s been pretty mature since he was 18 or 19. His strike-throwing took a step forward in 2018, before he missed all of 2019 with a nerve issue and all of 2020 because of the pandemic. He was 92-94 and touched 95 during a live BP in early-April. His profile already included fairly significant relief risk made more likely by the injury, pandemic, and how all of that compresses his developmental timeline. (Fall Instructional League) 39. Omar Hernandez, C Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Spain (KCR) Age 19.4 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/50 35/40 20/40 30/30 45/55 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. I think that once the universal DH is implemented, catcher is the next most likely position for which teams will want to pinch hit. As such, I think rostering three catchers, including one capable of playing elsewhere, will make players like Hernandez who come with that skillset baked in already quite important to a roster’s composition. (At-home dev) 40. Samuel Valerio, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (KCR) Age 19.6 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/70 40/45 45/50 30/45 94-97 / 99 Aside from Lacy, 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. Lacy is a long-term relief prospect with special arm strength for his age. (At-home dev) 41. Anderson Paulino, MIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (KCR) Age 22.6 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops 60/60 45/55 40/45 95-97 / 98 Paulino has been an interesting arm strength lotto ticket before, but some of the sliders I saw from him this spring (he preceded Asa Lacy’s debut) were much better than I’ve seen from him before. They still lack consistency, but a few of his 90-91 mph sliders were comfortably plus. Pair that with the upper-90s heat he’s had for a while and Paulino is interesting enough to stick on the main section of the list. (At-home dev) 42. Anthony Veneziano, SIRP Drafted: 10th Round, 2019 from Coastal Carolina (KCR) Age 23.7 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/55 50/55 30/40 94-96 / 97 Veneziano doesn’t have a good-looking delivery but he has had a pretty big velo spike, and was 95-97 late this spring. That’s up from him sitting 88-92 in 2019. It’s a heater of the tailing variety. I’ve only seen a changeup from Veneziano. At times he’d pull it across his body a little bit and it had cut action (I don’t have high-speed, so it’s possible what I saw was just a loose slider), but when it’s located right, it plays. He has a bullpen shot. (At-home dev) 43. Zach Haake, SIRP Drafted: 6th Round, 2018 from Kentucky (KCR) Age 24.6 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 186 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/60 55/60 40/45 30/35 92-95 / 97 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 (’19) add to that risk, and Haake has fallen behind the college pitchers in his draft class from an assignment perspective. With mid-90s heat and occasionally good breaking stuff, I think he’ll be an up/down relief fit eventually. (Fall Instructional League) 44. Omar Florentino, SS Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (KCR) Age 19.5 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 20/30 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 is limited by his size. I dig twitchy, short-levered, up-the-middle athletes, especially when they switch-hit, and Florentino checks all those boxes. He’s likely slated for the 2021 AZL. (At-home dev) 45. Eduardo Herrera, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Venezuela (ARI) Age 21.3 Height 5′ 9″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Command Sits/Tops 60/70 45/50 30/40 94-96 / 97 In the last year or so, the D-backs have tried more former position players on the mound than almost all of the orgs I monitor in Arizona, and Herrera is one such player. He signed as a catcher, then quickly moved to third, and finally to the mound in his third pro season. His fastball was 94-97 almost immediately and held that range at 2020 instructs, averaging 94.8 mph. He has erratic command and breaking ball quality, but Herrera is still a notable developmental relief prospect with premium arm strength. The Royals acquired him for speedy, upper-level center fielder Nick Heath, whom the D-backs needed due to injury. (Fall Instructional League) 46. Drew Parrish, SP Drafted: 8th Round, 2019 from Florida State (KCR) Age 23.4 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 35/40 45/45 50/55 35/50 87-90 / 92 Parrish is a lefty with a pretty good changeup, and those guys tend to wind up having big league careers, even if it’s just as upper-level depth. His velo was on the rise just before the 2019 draft, averaging just over 90 mph for the first time in his career, but in the postseason he 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. (At-home dev) 47. Seuly Matias, RF Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (KCR) Age 22.7 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/30 70/70 45/50 50/50 40/40 60 With few exceptions (Joey Gallo is one) even the most whiff-prone big leaguers struck out less than Matias when they were in the minors (a 35% career K%, a comical 44% in 2019 before a broken hand ended his season). Seuly has such incredible raw power and physicality that for a while I thought he might be one of those players. He still shows you why once in a while. This spring, I saw Matias take a really terrible swing, his butt flying out, just sort of hanging over the plate, throwing the bat head at the ball without really opening his hips. He hit it 113 mph. Just 22, there’s still time for Matias to mature as a hitter in such a way that enables him to approach his ceiling, but I’m not gonna bet on it. I think that were he called upon in an injury situation, he might provide brief streaks of excitement, but the strikeouts will ultimately hamper him. Players like this, who work out sometimes, have incredible seasons. Jorge Soler is a pretty good example of this type; he had that one amazing year but otherwise has been a sub-1 WAR player, so even if Seuly goes on a big league heater for a while, I don’t think it’ll be permanent. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League) 48. Maikel Garcia, SS Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Venezuela (KCR) Age 21.2 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 145 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/40 30/40 20/30 55/55 50/60 60 Garcia still hasn’t added much (if any) physical strength over the last year, but facility access in Venezuela was rare for pro ball players stuck there for most of the pandemic. He’s a lock to stay at shortstop — his footwork, hands, and arm strength are all sound fits there — but, at age 21, I’d have liked to have seen him add a little more strength and bat speed. I think this is the sort of player whose ceiling is that of a utility infielder barring some kind of serious physical progression now that Garcia once again has access to world class athletic facilities. (Venezuelan Winter League) 49. Woo-Young Jin, SP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from South Korea (KCR) Age 20.2 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 There’s no change here: 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. (At-home dev) 50. Tyler Tolbert, SS Drafted: 13th Round, 2019 from Alabama-Birmingham (KCR) Age 23.3 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/40 45/50 30/40 60/60 40/45 60 Tolbert has a fantastic baseball build and he can really fly, but he didn’t hit for any power in college and still doesn’t have a pro home run. I was surprised to find that out after I saw him launch a 430-foot tank during a co-op game at Surprise Stadium just after big league spring training let out. He’s booted a few routine plays at shortstop for me, but also has rare lateral range and quickness there, something that’s becoming rarer as shift-aided thumpers become the norm. Tolbert has experience playing all over the diamond, and I think his speed and versatility give him an upper-level depth floor. Whether the flash of power I saw this spring is the sign of some meaningful development that might allow for more will be more evident as this season progresses. (At-home dev) 51. Daniel Tillo, SIRP Drafted: 3rd Round, 2017 from Iowa Western JC (KCR) Age 24.9 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 There’s no change here since Tillo had TJ midway through 2020: 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. (TJ rehab) Other Prospects of Note Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category. More Arm Strength Will Klein, RHP Andres Machado, RHP Stephen Woods Jr., RHP Dylan Coleman, RHP Nathan Webb, RHP Klein was 94-98 when I saw him this spring but his secondaries were below-average. He’s still a fair relief prospect. Most of these pitchers are in their mid-20s and have premium velocity. Machado is 93-95, touching 97, with sink, and he has an average slider. Woods was the team’s Rule 5 pick a couple years ago. He was outrighted but the clubs decided to work out a trade rather than him return to the Rays. He’ll show you mid-90s with a plus breaking ball, but 30 control. Coleman was once an early-round pick out of Missouri State with a relief look. Injury and velo decline preceded a trade to Kansas City as part of the Trevor Rosenthal deal’s completion. I haven’t seen him in a while but he was 93-96 with a good slider at peak. Webb was up to at least 97 this spring. Burners Dairon Blanco, CF Diego Hernandez, CF John Rave, OF Kevin Merrell, 2B This is one of the few remaining orgs still obsessed with speed. Blanco (acquired from Oakland as part of the Diekman deal) posted big exit velos in 2019 (92 on average) but it was as a 26-year-old in Double-A. He’s a true 80 runner. 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. Rave is a plus runner and looks undersized with bench outfielder ceiling. Merrell (acquired from Oakland for Homer Bailey) is a run-only sort at this point. Bench/Depth Sorts Scott Blewett, RHP Sebastian Rivero, C Freddy Fermin, C Juan Carlos Negret, RF Jimmy Govern, 3B Emmanuel Rivera, 3B Blewett is a strike-throwing innings eater with a quality breaking ball; he could make spot starts. Rivero has a really athletic swing for a catcher but he has 30 power. Fermin is a really athletic catch-and-throw guy. Both project as third catchers on a 40-man. Negret has plus pop, but I don’t think he’ll hit enough. Govern was a small school college guy who raked against AZL pitching in 2019 and then was listed as a catcher on the Instructional League roster, but I’ve never seen him with gear on. Rivera has contact skills 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 in 2019, while Kaufman barely pitched but has been in the low-90s with carry and a good breaking ball for me. He’s somewhat projectable. Seijas had the highest average exit velos among Royals DSL hitters in 2019 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 is a deep, robust system with a foundation of drafted college pitching. The club’s fascination with speed tickles the baseball aesthetic that I like, but feels a little regressive as an actual strategy, especially on the pro scouting side. I’d just rather take fliers on pitching because building that depth is so important. Speaking of pitching depth, it’s possible that the Royals have enough in the org to continue their early 2021 success through the typical campaign’s slate of injuries. They don’t play service time games with prospects, so anyone who’s really performing in the upper minors this year is a threat to debut. They may need to consolidate 40-man pieces via trade ahead of anticipated promotions, though. It’s important for pro scouting departments to know this org well with this in mind. If you can anticipate them wanting to add a young prospect to the 40, you can be the first to try to leverage that in a deal for a player you like on their 40-man fringe the way San Francisco just did with Mike Tauchmann and the Yankees. This dynamic is relevant regarding Kansas City because all of that great college pitching from the 2018 draft, the high schoolers from the year before (Pratto, Melendez), and some random pro adds (Aquino, Morel) are Rule 5-eligible this winter. That also makes it harder to really move Witt (who I think will go through a natural adjustment period this summer as pitchers adjust to him — his spring was great but I don’t think he’s Trout or Tatis or anything like that), Marsh, or anyone else who has a 2022 40-man timeline or beyond, even if they’re one of the team’s best 28 guys.