It’s probably inaccurate to say that there’s no better indication of the future than a teams farm system, but it’s certainly a large part of the future and can bring results after a long rebuild or support for a short reload. This is probably the golden age of prospects right now where there’s never been more coverage of yet to be MLB players than now, and I think that’s a good thing. There’s critiques of grading scales, scouts, accuracy, and terminology, but it’s assuredly a positive in our baseball life that we have access to such content now more so than ever. Not only for a hopeful look at a possible gleam into the future of success, but for evaluating general managers and front offices in drafting analyzing trades and free agent signings.
So where are we compared to last year? I think the system is slightly better even with the loss of Ventura. That increase has come to the addition of the 2014 draftees mixed with finally having results and a full season look at Manaea. Likely not a current top-10 organization right now, but in a year that could change as well (obviously). If Mondesi hit better, Zimmer wasn’t injured, Starling broke out etc… yeah, I think you could make a case for the top-10, but there are issues with surety and depth mixed with a congregation of talent being in the lower minors.
1. Sean Manaea LHP A+ – 55 OFP
In his pro debut Manaea either met or exceeding expectations. While the walks were concerning (a 3.89 B/9) you can get away with that walk rate if you strike out a lot of batters, which Manaea did in striking out nearly 30% of the batters he faced and a K/9 of 10.8. For the year Manaea finished with a 3.11 FIP, third best in the entire Carolina League (min 100 IP) and the best strikeout rate by nearly 2 K/9. That K/9 is also top-10 in all the minor leagues.
You dream of the Cape Cod Manaea who was hitting 100 MPH and generating whiff after whiff. That velocity isn’t going to return, but he’s settled into mid-90’s and coupled with his high deception that a near double-plus pitch.
Behind the fastball he employs a true slider and a changeup that sits comfortably in that 8-10 MPH difference velo band from his fastball. I think we’re looking at two above average pitches in the FB/SL and an average pitch with his changeup.
If Manaea’s command could take a step forward (which certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibilities) then he could move into a strong #2 upside, but at this point I think we’re looking at a #2/3 who settles in more as a good #3. There’s not a large difference there, but his ceiling is something like a 60 OFP player which would be worth 3+ wins consistently. If he continues on his current course, I think he settles more into the 2+ win range, which is still an average MLB starter.
Once he gets to AA we’ll see how the strikeout rate holds up against some more older and advanced hitters while leaving the pitcher paradise of Wilmington.
2. Raul Mondesi SS A+ – 55 OFP
Here’s three scouting reports on Mondesi:
As toolsy as he is young, Mondesi contributed little at the plate, his defense isn`t all there yet, and his basestealing needs work, but the Dominican was playing full-season ball at 17. Most of us are wondering how many free fries we can filch on the job at that age. Opinions on his potential vary greatly, but even if he`s only a speedy line-drive hitter with good glovework, that`s still a potential All-Star, and there`s a chance he`ll be more than that.
Loaded with tools and playing in a full-season league at age 17, Mondesi was the darling of the Royals system. The problem is that Mondesi is just not a good hitter. He is, however, an outstanding defensive player. We’d say he’ll never bat at the top of a lineup…
Mondesi gets bandied around as one of the top shortstop prospects in the game, and it’s easy to see why-he’s loaded with defensive tools and runs extremely well. That’s a lot to be excited about, but it also ignores some massive holes in his game, including very little in the way of power and walks, and a consistently high error total due to sloppy play. He’s got all the skills to be an everyday shortstop, but more the type that hits at the bottom of the order, as opposed to a future stud.
Okay, I lied. Those are scouting reports for Elvis Andrus with Mondesi plugged into them (and swapping Venezuelan for Dominican, though Mondesi is technically American). The point remains roughly the same though. Andrus has never been an offensive force at the plate and for his career he’s a 16% below league average hitter, but that works for SS and paired with his defensive prowess he’s been able to put up nearly 18 wins by his age 25 season over 6 years or 3 wins on average.
You can’t just expect Mondesi to be as good as Andrus because they both were glove first guys who were pushed aggressively in the minors of course, but Mondesi offers a similar profile to Andrus of a player that can provide value without having to be even a league average hitter due to his skills with his glove and on the base paths.
What keeps his offensive profile limited are his plate approach problems. Mondesi has excellent bat control and ability to make contact, but he has a poor approach when he’s in the box, constantly chasing pitches he shouldn’t. This is leading to poor contact and high strikeouts. With refinement Mondesi could see his K% normalize to a more league average rate of ~20-21%. It’s not that it’s extremely high right now (~23-24%), but you’d like a guy who has the bat to ball skills to pick his spots better to maximize that tool.
With Mondesi, talent isn’t in question, but the results this year were poor even when discounting for his age. Mondesi played in an extreme pitchers park and league which further dampened his results. The previous years in Rookie and Low-A were successful (wRC+ of 90 and 94) but Mondesi could start A+ again with an eye towards AA mid-year.
Youngest player in the Carolina League
|2012||Xander Bogaerts/Cheslor Cuthbert||19|
|2011||Leury Garcia/Santiago Chirino||20|
|2010||Eric Hosmer/Oscar Tejeda/Sal Perez||20|
|2009||Cody Johnson/Lonnie Chisenhall/Mike Moustakas||20|
Mondesi is going to just continue (hopefully) to climb the organizational ladder year by year, level by level. I think his earliest MLB appearance could be 2017.
3. Brandon Finnegan LHP A+/AA/AAA/MLB – 50/55 OFP
Truthfully I didn’t want to include Finnegan in these digital pages due to his MLB experience, but the Finnegan we’ll see in April is going to likely be under a different role. There’s some chatter that he could move to the MLB bullpen permanently given the Royals win-now mode, but I think it would be best for Finnegan to return to the minors, likely AA, and get innings out of the rotation. He features a powerful enough fastball/slider combination that has already gotten major leaguers out in his small sample size but needs to improve the change and use it more consistently. He threw the change just 22 times in the majors and only 3 times in the playoffs The fastball has enough sink on it to be a groundball pitch, but the changeup will allow him to get right handed hitters out.
There hasn’t been a definitive statement yet by Dayton Moore of JJ Picollo if Finnegan will return to the minors in the rotation, but it’s been floated and would be my bet.
I don’t think Finnegan has the ceiling of Manaea or Zimmer, but he’s already reached the MLB and his floor at this point seems to be a good reliever. Out of the rotation I think a mid-rotation starter could be the role he settles in.
4. Kyle Zimmer RHP A+/AA – 50/55 OFP
Just. Stay. Healthy. Everyone knows of the injuries to Zimmer. Touted as a fresh arm with low miles, he’s had real trouble getting accustomed to the life of a full time pitcher. Over about 2 1/2 to 3 seasons Zimmer has thrown just 152 professional innings with the majority of those being 108 in 2013.
When he’s pitching, he’s a pretty dang good pitcher. The career owner of a 3.10 FIP, 11.2 K/9 and 2.88 BB/9 while striking out nearly 30% of the batters he’s faced.
There isn’t that much for Zimmer to work on other than just try to rack up innings and stay on the mound at this point. When at his peak, he’s got two plus-pitches in the fastball and spike curve while the slider settles in the average range, but can flash above average when he puts more velocity behind it. There’s no reason to scrap the changeup of course, but it will need work to be effective and reach average.
Late in the year Zimmer was excellent upon returning. He pitched 4.2 innings of rookie ball before moving onto Omaha for the AAA playoffs where he struck out 8 batters over 6 scattered innings in 4 appearances in relief.
Zimmer had an absolutely dominating outing during the AFL right before his shoulder acted up, producing a line of 5IP 11K and one walk. As you can see below, when he made his next outing his velocity was down, prompting him to be pulled.
The debridement surgery isn’t a “major” surgery per say, like Tommy John or full labrum surgery, in that you could expect it affect his velocity/command severely, but none the less it isn’t minor either. The debridement cleaned up damaged tissue and “debris” and Zimmer is expected to return to in game action late-April/early-May.
5. Hunter Dozier 3B – 50 OFP
‘It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known
A true Dickens-like season for Dozier. Hitting a 136 wRC+ in the pitcher friendly Wilmington/Carolina League (A+) and an 81 wRC+ in the more neutral/slight hitter friendly park of Northwest Arkansas and hitter friendly Texas League (AA).
Dozier continued to play after the regular season ended when he was asked to participate in the Arizona Fall League that includes many other “legit” prospects (although it’s generally more hitters than pitchers though the pitchers invited are generally in their MLB club’s future). Before the league kicked off Dozier won the AFL hitting challenge (which you can find GIF’s of here). A sluggish start to the campaign was overcome by a more heated final few weeks ending with Dozier hitting a 126 wRC+ for the final line.
When you look at Dozier you expected power to be an important part of his game given his frame, but it hasn’t been so far capping off his year at AA with a lowly .103 ISO.
A low .280 BABIP was detrimental to his time in AA as his swing is geared towards contact and line drives and posted .350+ BABIP’s in 3 other levels. Neither is likely sustainable, but a ~.330 BABIP could be foreseeable for his career (why on Earth am I trying to predict BABIP…).
Dozier creates his value at the plate through a strong contact approach (consistently fouls off pitches) and line drive swing. The bat speed isn’t anything to write home about but it’s above average. What propels that contact approach is his control of the barrel and bat-to-ball skills. The stance is easy and relaxed without any strange mechanics or movements. The swing lacks significant loft at times and it’s geared more towards line drives.
The lack of impact bat speed may hurt him up the ladder with more efficient velocity through pitch/speed mixing.
The report on Dozier has changed now that we have a glimpse of him at the upper levels. Once he was somebody thought to hit .280-.290 at the MLB level with significant double power and 15 or so home runs, but AA pitching showed some holes in his game. I think we’re looking at now more like a .260-.270 or so hitter. The significant doubles power still exists and if he can tap into his over the wall power more then we could see 15-20 home runs over 600 PA.
Another issue I’ve heard about with him is some pitch recognition ones where down in the zone he can read offspeed pitches as fastballs causing him to chase outside the zone. Meanwhile there is also some inconsistency with pitches up in the zone given his swing path that allows him to make more consistent contact with pitches at his belt or lower. Heaters up in the zone are fouled off constantly, hinting at some issues catching up so more premium velocity up.
If I had to guess an average season line for him I would say .270/.350/.430 9-10BB% 20-22K%. That’s ~110/115 wRC+ or so (it’s a similar line to 2014 Alex Gordon). Maybe that’s a little high and I could see the power playing lighter with a bump in strikeouts to lower the line.
Defensively he features plus range at third attributed to his former defensive home at shortstop in college. He covers ground quickly for his size with fast lateral movements. Also his arm is strong and accurate, making consistent throws across the diamond. One issue with Dozier may be his hands as he struggles to make the backhand pick at times.
Hunter will be 23 next season and is likely to debut in AA, but he did a receive a non-roster invitee to Spring training (for the 2nd straight year I believe) so I’m not sure we can fully rule out a AAA start. I don’t think that’s likely and is probably near non-zero, but the Royals may push him and there is no one in AAA blocking him at 3B.
6. Foster Griffin LHP – 50 OFP
I slept on Griffin pre-draft, mainly because I was more focused on the bats I expected the Royals to take. I ranked him 37th overall on my draft board and he went 28th overall.
Griffin is a bit lanky and might remind you of former Royal top prospect Mike Montgomery but not quite with the premium stuff Monty had. Pitchers his size can have some trouble with their longer levers but Griffin is athletic enough to not let it control his mechanics.
Mid-spring Griffin was in the mid-90’s but during his pro time he settled in the low-90’s to high-80’s. Given his frame there’s some nice angles and plane to his pitches, especially the fastball, but the lower velocity will keep him from being a frontline starter. At 18 years old he’s still very projectable and should fill out his frame a bit more which should lead to an increase in velocity.
Foster has a very easy delivery given his size and there isn’t any real injury concern other than he’s a pitcher.
His current arsenal features a fastball, changeup, and curveball with the fastball and changeup near equal and the curveball a bit behind. At times his curveball can break too much and he’ll lose control of the pitch.
At this point you’ve got the upside of a #3 pitcher given the current profile, but if he does add some velocity and his changeup takes a step forward ultimately he could be a #2, but that will take some hoping for.
7. Miguel Almonte RHP – 50 OFP
I’m admittedly lower on Almonte than most. For whatever it means to you, Baseball Prospectus ranked Almonte as the Royals 2nd best prospect and Baseball America their 6th best. Against BA it is only one slot lower, but against BP it’s 5 slots. BP sees him as a Role 6 (what would maybe be equivalent to a 55 OFP) or #3 starter, and that’s certainly possible for Almonte with continued refinement.
Almonte is coming off his worst season by both FIP and ERA as his command took a step backwards and his stuff wasn’t as challenging against High-A hitters after being excellent against A-Ball players in the Sally League.
My concerns with Almonte lay with his command and third pitch. First his mechanics can be thrown off by his size which in turn will lead to slippage in command. Almonte is 22 and while he may not quite have maxed out physically just yet, he’s getting close to it. My other concern is his curveball. Almonte will lose command of the pitch at times both missing out of the zone with it and also losing the break/bite of it (which could root from his delivery). There has also been some talk about sequencing issues with Almonte (I haven’t seen as much in the games I’ve watched).
Almonte has easily the best changeup in the organization and it is a true out-pitch for him and it works best in companion with his 93-95 MPH fastball. If the curveball comes around then he’s an easy rotation stalwart even if the command remains fringy where you could see an average or better strikeout rate but below average walk rate (think like Wade Miley or Zack Wheeler) which is a ~2ish win pitcher.
I think the more likely case is a reliever with two above average pitches in a fastball/changeup thrown primarily. That’s similar to our own Kelvin Herrera (with lower velocity) and Fernando Rodney (again with a few MPH lower), but there’s reason to believe his velocity could play up a tick or two out of the pen.
The reason he’s a 50 OFP is because at this point he’s a starter and a no-brainer one at that…for now. His body is built well enough to pitch 180+ innings and other than what I think was a week or two this year where he was rested, Almonte hasn’t had any injury issues. The Royals will obviously continue to let him start and essentially pitch his wayout of the rotation if the curveball can’t take a step forward. Even with an average curveball the command can remain where it is and he’ll still be fine in the rotation but missing a third pitch and fringy command would likely move him out.
8. Chase Vallot C/1B – 50 OFP
Vallot was the second best prep catcher in this years draft behind the 6th overall pick to the Mariners, Alex Jackson. That isn’t to say though that Vallot was the second best catcher as both the Cubs Kyle Schwarber and Blue Jays Max Pentecost were some spots ahead of him, but Vallot was a sure-fire first round pick.
Pre (and post) draft Vallot has been known for his plus-raw power. He won the Perfect Game HR derby last year and finished 2nd behind the Brewers Jacob Gatewood who had arguably the best power in the draft (alongside many warts) in the Under Armour HR derby.
Right now there’s a gulf between his raw/in-game power and his hit tool and it’s noticeable. You take the good and the bad with his approach. Vallot walked at a 11.7% rate this past summer which attested to his relative patience at the plate. On the other end though he also struck out 36.5% of the time as well. That’s a testament to not only his age (he was 17 for the majority of his season) but his appetite for power. Vallot was aggressive at times seeking to hit the ball over the wall rather than make solid contact. That’s something he can learn with age and experience because there’s a potential average hit tool with his mechanics and approach, he just needs to tone down the aggression. There aren’t any mechanical flaws in his swing and in BP he puts a serious charge into the ball.
The question most wanting to be answered when you look at Vallot’s future is if he can stick behind the plate. Right now…maybe. That’s a cop out answer though I’ll admit. Vallot has a great arm back there and scouts will rave about his work ethic as an attribution to his future growth potential. His receiving skills need work as does his glove to arm transfer that will fully allow the plus-arm to play. So maybe I should say, right now…yes because the Royals will give him opportunities to stick there. They afforded Wil Myers a full season through A/A+ behind the plate while splitting time at DH to help push the bat and they’ll likely do the same with Vallot. If he moves out from catcher then he could spend time at first base or test right field where his arm would fit well but his speed would be a slight concern with range. Vallot won’t ever be more than a fringy runner and he’s a bulky sized (perhaps…pudgy) player but to his credit prior to the start of the 2014 spring season vallot lost 20 pounds.
I have no clever GIF of Vallot from pro-ball.
9. Christian Binford – RHP – 45/50 OFP
The perhaps counter argument to Mondesi being ranked highly is Christian Binford. Where Mondesi profiles highly due to projected tools instead of results, Binford ranks lower through results instead of projected tools.
I think Binford ends up being an elite command reliever along the lines of Edward Mujica or Mark Melancon, but who feature high-80’s/low-90’s fastballs. He’s built his resume on lethal command despite underwhelming stuff. Binford doesn’t really have a third pitch either as his slider doesn’t really even flash average. He does throw an average or so changeup which works well alongside his pinpoint fastball command he can place in any quadrant.
Binford was actually worse in his time in the bullpen at AAA (in 10 innings) rather than his 130 innings out of the rotation in A+/AA. The Royals had thoughts about using him in the bullpen during the September stretch of the MLB club but ultimately decided not to (he would have needed to been added to the 40-man roster).
Binford might go to AAA to open the 2015 season but is more likely to open in AA alongside Manaea/Almonte/Zimmer in the rotation.
I tweeted during the season a running collection of Christian Binford stats, but now that the season is over we’ve got some finality to the craziness (I’m only counting starts)
Starts without a walk: 12
Starts with 1 walk: 5
Starts with 2 walks: 3
Starts with 3 walks: 2
Starts with 4+ walks: 0
So Binford had more starts without a walk than with a walk and when he did walk player it was never more than 3.
This is my favorite: From the first out of the May 30th game against Frederick to the July 5th game against Winston-Salem in the bottom of the 2nd with 2 outs, Binford didn’t walk a single batter. That’s more than a month of the schedule without a walk and 31.1 consecutive innings. His June stats: 29.2 IP 2.73 ERA 28K/0BB.
From May 25th to August 13, Binford walked just 7 batters over 84.2 innings.
10. Jorge Bonifacio – OF 45 OFP
A return stint to a brief prior experience of AA yielded an underwhelming result for Bonifacio.
The batspeed is there for Bonifacio and in batting practice he shows his 60 grade power and Bonifacio has really good bat-to-ball skills, but the problem is inconsistent good contact. Bonifacio connects to the ball often but it usually brings weak ground balls or pop outs as an end result. Similar to Dozier, Bonifacio’s swing is more geared for line drives and doesn’t feature much loft to it. The Royals can retool his swing to access more power and he’s got a good trunk to base from, but that comes with the risk of lowering contact or hurting his future results by changing something this late in the progression stages.
At 21 years old Boni is still young and is likely to play in AA again. This was his first sub-115 wRC+ season, but it’s unfortunate it came at a level he’s seen previously, if only briefly. There’s still hope on the horizon for Bonifacio and a third outfielder role is still well within reach but he’ll need to make more consistent good contact and tap into his power.
Realistic role is something along the lines of Daniel Nava or Alejandro De Aza with a .260-.280/.320-.350/.400-.420 with roughly average or so defense. You’re gonna dream on him tapping into his power and hitting .270 with 20 home runs but it just isn’t likely to happen.
11. Scott Blewett
I love Blewett’s size and he seemed to be underrated pre-draft given his New York background, but he features a low-to-mid 90’s fastball and a promising curveball. He’s a player who could be “out there selling jeans” and that’s what drives this ranking for me. He’s got everything you want in the mold of a pitching prospect (other than maybe being right handed) and just needs reps on his pitches. Currently the fastball and curve are some length ahead of his changeup and the command needs some ground for improvement, but at just age-18 there’s not much concern right now other than him just needing to take the mound every 5th day.
I’m going to say it now that come next year he’ll be higher outside of just graduation attrition.
12. Bubba Starling – OF 45 OFP
Seems like everybody, including the Royals and Starling, know what kind of year Bubba had. By wRC+ this was his first year with a sub-league average line and it did come at one of the most pitcher friendly parks in the minors. By wOBA+ (which includes park factors) he was at 94, or 6% below league average, not as bad as his 84 wRC+ this year (of course both being different metrics).
Home split: .203/.317/.295
Away split: .231/.292/.376
He wasn’t particularly good away from home, but there was relatively more power away from Frawley.
Unfortunately it wasn’t just the home park that caused Starling to struggle. At this point, you have to assume there is a neurological problem with Starling when it comes to pitch recognition (something that has been bounced around for a while with him). He just isn’t picking up spin on the ball or arm slot. Maybe he’s still learning that skill, but 1000+ PA’s so far should have given him some of that skill.
At one point it was a perceived mechanical issue with a hitch in his hands as the narrative, but the Royals have changed his mechanics plenty throughout his time in the minors.
Elbow down and more narrow stance in High School, brought the elbow up and widened the stance in Rookie Ball, kept the open and wide stance but brought the elbow back down in Low-A, then started to bring the elbow back up this year. His current swing is a mix between his high school and rookie ball mechanics with the wide stance and elbow slightly up. I think he could maybe shorten his stance a bit, but I like where the elbow is for him.
The Royals opened him up wider to access more power at which lengthened his load. Starling is a big athlete with a great baseball frame (he could definitely be out there selling jeans) so generally you want bit wider stance to fully unlock his power.
Here’s a home run by Starling from the AFL championship game this year. He’s slightly out in front of the pitch, but is still able to pull it out due to his stance.
I think he’s set to start in AA this year alongside a few other top prospects. Arkansas isn’t a band box, but it is slightly above neutral park for hitters, and certainly a different climate than the wet coastal atmosphere that the Carolina League endures.
You just need Starling to be a 40 hitter for him to have a real shot at being an everyday or so major leaguer, but man… a 40 hit tool isn’t there yet. Starling still gets rave reviews for his defense and is a sure fire centerfielder with plus-speed and plus-arm mixed with above average power that he can access on occasion when he’s making contact. You always hear “he was really raw” when he was drafted and it’s absolutely true he was, but it’s hard to not be disappointed in the results so far. Most high school outfielders spend years in the minors, but it’s safe to say Starling is still behind the curve.
13. Ryan O’Hearn – OF
It’s hard not to immediately like a draft pick when he goes 5-5 with a home run and a stolen base in his debut. O’Hearn hit the ground running in the Pioneer League recording hits in 16 of his first 18 games and 30 of his first 34 games. His longest streak without a hit was a 3-game/15-PA run from 7/31-8/4. There were only 6 games (out of 64) that he didn’t reach base via a hit or walk. Truly beat up the Pioneer League (driven by a .425 BABIP) on his way to being named the league’s MVP.
Out of high school he was a 2nd team All-American (alongside Joey Gallo, Gavin Cecchini, Jose Fernandez, Robert Stephenson, and Henry Owen) that went undrafted out of Wakeland, Texas.
O’Hearn didn’t get a lot of love pre-draft this year, likely given the 8 home runs he hit in a non-power conference, but Don Sanders Stadium has been described as being very pitcher friendly and a hitters graveyard. It does seem that once O’Hearn moved to a more neutral confine of Idaho Falls/Pioneer League his power shot back up. Idaho Falls deeply suppresses home runs yet O’Hearn hit 5 of his 13 there while slugging .656 (.560 away).
O’Hearn features a relax setup with his bat lurching over his shoulder like a lumberback, a setup he’s carried since college. Decent bat speed and torque helped him muscle a few pulled home runs over the right field wall, but O’Hearn also goes the opposite way often.
Pre-draft he was pegged as a below average defensive first baseman. I haven’t seen a lot of him defensively there and am just relying upon reports, but it’s probably safe to say that he won’t be a defensive asset there and his impact will be bat driven. Every time I saw him play he was playing RF (did so 15 times last year) and there isn’t much speed/defense there either. Moving him to right would allow some room on his bat and I’d imagine if he were to reach the majors he’d be there in theory (especially if Hosmer is still on the team at that point).
Don’t expect his Pioneer League numbers in each level obviously, but he’s someone who could strut into the top-10 next year, especially if he hits well in A+. O’Hearn will be 21 next year which is well within the prospect age range of A/A+. It’s a bat first profile, and if he destined for 1B then he’ll need to really hit. I question if 20+ home runs could happen consistently though as you’d expect out of a 1B.
14. Cheslor Cuthbert – 1B
I’m very low on Cuthbert and ultimately don’t think he’s anything other than an up and down bench bat. There’s some bat speed there and a good plate approach/contact skills but like Bonifacio the raw-power is inconsistent and filled with weak contact. Unlike Bonifacio though Cuthbert is without a defensive position though partially due to profiles than skill. He doesn’t have the defensive glove for third base, but could play first average-ish. Of course being a 1B only player means you have to hit for power and Cuthbert won’t due to his swing and inconsistencies. So he’s not good enough defensively for third and not good enough offensively for first.
The Royals moved Cuthbert to 2B for a very brief stint where he made 2 errors in 3 games and posted a fielding percentage of .833 (lower than Billy Butler’s fielding percentage when he played third base in Idaho Falls). Outside of the flaws of minor-league fielding percentages, I don’t think Cuthbert has the speed/range to play 2B. He has the arm for it though if somehow he were able to, but hey Rickie Weeks has played 9000 innings at 2B so anything is possible.
If right now you told me he for sure able to play 2B in some capacity then I’d be a little higher on him and could be closer to the top-10, but it ain’t happening for me dog right now. I think his current upside is a poor-man’s Christian Colon which is to say he doesn’t have much upside unless some things happen.
15. Glenn Sparkman
The Royals true Minor League Pitcher of the Year (Binford was actually named it) Sparkman dominated for the second straight year in a row albeit against slightly younger competition. There’s basically little to no reports on him, but what is out there is intriguing. The Royals really liked him pre-draft and worked him out in a private session before taking him in the 20th round. He features a low-90’s fastball with a low-80’s slider/curve. Frame wise he got a strong build and is 6’2″ and he features excellent command.
Stuff wise he’s better than Christian Binford but with a shorter track record. Binford started pro ball out of High School at age 18 while Sparkman came out of JuCo at age 21. Sparkman also just moved out of the bullpen in late-may but with great success and wasn’t just a creation of Frawley Stadium.
Sparkman is likely to debut in AA next year in what will be his first true challenge as he’ll face more advanced competition outside of pitcher friendly Wilmington.
In the grand scheme of prospects, Sparkman isn’t a true #guy just yet, but for the Royals prospects he’s a legit guy to watch. There’s reason to believe that he belongs higher on the list and if he had a longer track record he would be.
16. Elier Hernandez
Big signing bonus guy that we’re still waiting on to give us a full season of showing his potential. The hit tool has been underwhelming, but most of his game has been there…at times at least. He’s not that young anymore at age 20 and he’s set to see the hard to hit park of Wilmington this season which could continue his mediocre ways. For the next year or two he’ll continue to get hype given his potential toolset and pedigree, but by 2017 he could be just another failed expensive international signee.
17. Dominique Taylor
One of those guys who’s outperformed his tools as they say. He’s perhaps the definition of a Royals baseball player. High-contact, middling-power, speedster who’s filled with your prototypical #grit. Much like Johnny Giavotella, Taylor is likely to continually be underrated on lists or in the organization until he eventually perhaps gets a look at the major league level.
18. Samir Duenez
Bat has still been underwhelming, especially for a first baseman, but defensively the reports have been very good. Duenez will be 19 next season, likely in Wilmington or Lexington, so he’s still raw, but the power has been absent in games. Has the body of a first baseman, but not the offense. Bat speed doesn’t seem to be there right now either and was more of a mistake hitter at Idaho Falls.
19. Sam Selman
Finally converted fully to relief where he belongs. Fastball and Slider will play better out of the relief role and can maximize his results over short spans. The command was much better from the pen and walked just one batter in his final 11 AFL innings while striking out 12. The fastball was up to 95 at times, but mostly hovered around 92. Is likely to return to AAA and could be a lefty callup for the Royals at some point this year.
20. Ramon Torres
Prototypical middle infield utility ceiling player. Plus speed and glove at SS/2B, but little to no power (30-40 grade) and the hit tool could be average. He’s a switch hitter and likes to lay down a bunt at times. He’s been around in the system for a while (signed at age 16), but just reached A+ for the first time at age 21. As mentioned, not a lot of ceiling here but if everything fell right he could be something along the lines of Miguel Cairo, Ryan Theriot, or Alexi Casilla range of player.
21. Marten Gasparini
A broken nose from a ball to the face delayed our first full view of Gasparini as he was limited to just 23 games. Hard to make anything just yet given his age and no results.
22. Pedro Fernandez
Fernandez had been excellent the past two years in complex league ball, but the results were a little worse in his stateside debut. Velo was still in the 92-94 range with an improving slider. He was part of a tandem rotation in Lexington and should see Wilmington in 2015 at age 21.
23. Orlando Calixte
More of the same from Calixte. Decent power and good glove at SS, but the strikeouts were still there and was slightly worse in his repeat of AA. I’m not sure I’ve heard of a prospect repeating AA for three full seasons, but he didn’t really get any better or show any improved plate discipline. I’ve been low on him for a while (had him at #17 last year) and at this point I’m not sure he never receives anything more than a token MLB look.
24. John Lamb
Lamb wasn’t anything better than mediocre in his first season at AAA. Sad to think that back in 2010 at age 19 he was pitching excellent at A+ and saw AA, but it’s taken him 4 years later to reach AAA. A once prominent potential front end starter now back end pitcher and more likely a bullpen piece proves that not everyone recovers from Tommy John.
25. Zane Evans
Evans followed up his strong pro debut with a very not-strong true freshman season. His aggression got him in trouble as he started making weaker contact with bad pitches and paired that with a 100+ point drop in BABIP. Evans split time between DH/C and he’s got the chops to play catcher a couple times a week. If he continues to struggle for the next year or two the Royals may try him out on the mound.
26. Cody Stubbs
27. Whit Merrifield
28. Daniel Stumpf
29. Cody Reed
30. Luke Farrell
Guys to know/Human Interest:
Red Sox Rule 5 pick from the Astros that the Royals acquired. Great size and build, easy delivery. Throws 97 regularly while touching 100 MPH occasionally. Slider is just okay, but can be inconsistent. Changeup is basically non existent or a slow fastball. Command has improved over time and fits best in the bullpen for short outings. Interesting to watch going forward, but didn’t make the main list because he might not even be a Royals prospect come the end of March.
Was a no-name prior to practicing with weighted balls that eventually upped his velocity by 10 MPH. He’s not a prospect yet, but a mid-90’s fastball can go a long way up the minor league ladder and he’s 20 years old.
What’s even more quirkier about him is that his college athletic department didn’t even have a baseball team. Way was a punter for the Tulsa Hurricanes. Way also hasn’t played baseball since his junior year of high school.
Stuff wise Way features basically only two pitches. His fastball is actually a plus-pitch as he brings it home in the low-90’s but with huge downhill plane brought upon by his extreme extension. After that he throws a meh curveball that’s a slider at times and is pretty inconsistent.
He’s far behind the development of most other 22 year old pitchers, but there’s also the theory of “baseball age” in which Cole would be pretty young. He’s left handed and that will allow him to stick around for a while given his size and plus-fastball.
Like Stephenson, Way isn’t a guy yet and will need to reach AA, maybe even AAA, before you can envision an MLB career for him, but this category isn’t about that.
Former undrafted, small, and light hitting shortstop converted into a pitcher who gained around 30 pounds. DeShazier once threw mid-80’s in college but now is in the low-90’s range and flashed 97 in an outing.
DeShazier was named the Idaho Falls pitcher of the year and posted a 3.17/4.46 ERA/FIP, 9.09 K/9, and 3.03 BB/9 as a 20-year old as his command took a big step forward this year.
Best Power: Chase Vallot
Best Hit Tool: Hunter Dozier
Best Defense: Raul Mondesi
Best Runner: Raul Mondesi
Best Fastball: Sean Manaea
Best Curveball: Kyle Zimmer
Best Changeup: Miguel Almonte
Best Slider: Brandon Finnegan
MiLB Top 70
|6||Carlos Rodon||White Sox||41||14||12||8||15||18|
|9||Blake Swihart||Red Sox||17||18||10||9||17||14|
|23||Daniel Norris||Blue Jays||34||17||18||17||18||21|
|28||Henry Owens||Red Sox||46||19||20||33||44||32|
|32||Tim Anderson||White Sox||39||76||67||45||92||64|
|35||Eduardo Rodriguez||Red Sox||65||89||29||23||59||53|
|58||Aaron Sanchez||Blue Jays||25||44||51||70||27||43|
|59||Dalton Pompey||Blue Jays||42||43||42||80||30||47|
|60||Manuel Margot||Red Sox||61||99||70||35||72||67|
I’ll note that my list was compiled before any of the other top lists were done, but I used some information on those lists to gauge if I was too high or low on a prospect and what information was I missing or using too much.
Kris Bryant easily my #1 on the list, even with the contact/aggression problems.
I’m a little more bullish on Soler than some, but even in his small MLB debut he was awesome and flashed his full set of tools.
Seems like I’m way out there on Jose Berrios, but twenty year olds with four potential average or better pitches, with possibly three being plus, and good command aren’t growing on the pitching tree.
Alex Jackson was one of my favorite pre-draft prospects. Seattle isn’t going to keep him behind the plate and slow his bat, but he’s going to hit and hit.
Although the Manaea/Dozier combo seems to be going well, I still would have been happier perhaps with taking the other Hunter in the draft, Hunter Renfroe. Big believer in his power and that the hit tool won’t drag it down too far, even at Petco.
Joey Gallo: We heard all about the adjustments he made in the first half (no mention of the .413 BABIP), but he fell apart in the 2nd half striking out nearly 40% of the time. How much do you expect him to strikeout in the majors? 30%? 35%? 40%? That’s almost impossible to be an above average player striking out that much unless you’re hitting for major power, which he of course does. Russell Branyan struck out 32% of the time and averaged ~0.7 wins per season. Mark Reynolds is on his sixth team since his age-23 debut. Pedro Alvarez has been a bit of a boom/bust but he didn’t strike out as much as Gallo has in the minors.
Forrest Wall. I showed no shame pre-draft on him this past June and would have taken him no doubt with the Royals 17th or 28th pick. 35th to the Rockies was a great pick for Colorado. Who cares about the high-school second baseman stigma. Plus hit tool and average power with excellent plate discipline that can stick at 2B with excellent speed and range. He’ll be on everybody’s top-100 next year.