Kansas City Royals Top 20 Prospects for 2016
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders for the book, so order early and order often!
All of these grades are preliminary and subject to change.
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS
Grade A prospects are the elite. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don’t intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don’t make it at all.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for the full analysis about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
1) Raul Mondesi, SS, Grade B+/B: Age 20, hit .243/.279/.372 with 19 steals, 17 walks, 88 strikeouts in 304 at-bats in Double-A, made first MLB appearance in World Series. Excellent tools, skills remain spotty. For more thoughts on Mondesi click HERE.
2) Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Grade B: Age 24, 2.39 ERA with 72/20 K/BB in 64 innings between Low-A and Double-A. No question about talent with good command of plus stuff, but health and workload issues prevent a higher grade. My guess is that he winds up as a closer eventually.
3) Miguel Almonte, RHP, Grade B-: Age 22, 4.51 ERA with 96/42 K/BB in 104 innings in high minors, can get up to 95-96 but secondary pitches, command remain inconsistent. I have liked his arm for a couple of years and still do, but needs more consistency to be a starter. May also wind up in bullpen.
4) Bubba Starling, OF, Grade B-: Age 23, still has superb tools that made him a first round pick, skills slowly coming together. Excellent glove. Hit .254/.318/.426 with 10 homers, 30 walks, 91 strikeouts in 331 at-bats in Double-A. A role player unless hitting skills take a huge step forward, which is not impossible but is realistically less than 50/50. Still, the glove could make him a useful role player.
5) Ashe Russell, RHP, Grade B-: Age 19, first round pick this year out of high school in Indiana, 4.21 ERA with 24/13 K/BB in 36 innings in rookie ball. Scouts well with low-mid-90s fastball, promising slider, needs tighter command and better change-up. Natural talent of a number two starter but will need time to develop.
6) Josh Staumont, RHP, Grade B-: Age 21, second round pick out of Azusa Pacific, 2.48 ERA with 58/32 K/BB in 40 innings in pro debut. Exceptional stuff as shown in superior K/IP, H/IP ratios but walk rate is very high and will be a handicap at higher levels. Can hit 100 in relief.
7) Jorge Bonifacio, OF, Grade B-/C+: Age 22, hit .240/.305/.416 with 17 homers, 42 walks, 126 strikeouts in 483 at-bats repeating Double-A. Power developing nicely, on-base skills remain weak, good throwing arm but doesn’t run well enough for center, would fit in right if hitting gets better.
8) Foster Griffin, LHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 20, first round pick in 2014, ineffective season in Low-A with 5.44 ERA, 71/35 K/BB in 103 innings, 123 hits. Good fastball but secondary pitches not as strong as advertised in high school, particularly the breaking ball. Young enough to develop much further of course so gets some slack.
9) Nolan Watson, RHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 18, supplemental first round pick from Indiana high school this year, 4.91 ERA with 16/11 K/BB in 29 innings in rookie ball, 39 hits, doesn’t throw as hard as Russell but was supposed to be more polished with four pitches, did not live up to expectations but given age, cold-weather background patience is appropriate.
10) Elier Hernandez, OF, Grade C+/B-: Age 20, excellent tools, hit .290/.331/.421 in 290 at-bats in Low-A but just .232/.281/.311 in 177 at-bats in High-A. Like many Royals prospects he looks good in uniform but has seen only slow skill development.
11) Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B, Grade C+/B-: Age 23, hit .277/.339/.421 with 11 homers, 37 walks, 60 strikeouts in 397 at-bats in Triple-A, .217/.280/.370 in 46 at-bats in majors. Defense was improved this year and he looked in better shape, however hitting remains mediocre considering context.
Slots 12 through 20 could be ordered in many different ways.
12) Scott Blewett, RHP, Grade C+: Age 19, second round pick in 2014 from high school in New York, posted 5.20 ERA with 60/24 K/BB in 81 innings, 88 hits. Like Griffin he did not meet expectations in rookie ball but he has considerable upside, low-mid 90s fastball and promising curve, other secondaries need more work.
13) Marten Gasparini, SS, Grade C+: Age 18, signed out of Italy in 2013 to largest bonus in European history, hit .259/.341/.411 in Pioneer League, 26 steals, 25 walks, 80 strikeouts in 197 at-bats. Superior athlete but extremely raw, particularly on defense, which is understandable given background, another high-risk high-reward option.
14) Reymond Fuentes, OF, Grade C+: Age 24, hit .308/.360/.422 with 29 steals in Triple-A, 30 walks, 72 strikeouts in 396 at-bats. Fast, impressive glove, on-base skills come and go, lacks consistent power. Very much a Royals type player, could be very good fourth outfielder.
15) Anderson Miller, OF, Grade C+: Age 21, third round pick this year from Western Kentucky, hit .276/.326/.395 in pro debut with 14 walks, 35 strikeouts in 210 at-bats mostly in Low-A. Very good athlete with speed and power potential, a bit raw for a college guy but has physical upside to be a regular, low strikeout rate is a good marker.
16) Pedro Fernandez, RHP, Grade C+: Age 21, signed for just $45,000 as another bargain arm from the Dominican Republic. The Royals are good at finding those guys. Solid in Low-A (3.12, 89/27 K/BB in 78 innings) but hit hard late in High-A (0-6, 8.82, 56 hits in 33 innings) when breaking ball went backwards. Might fit best in pen.
17) Alfredo Escalara-Maldonado, OF, Grade C+: Age 20, another tools guy who performed well in Low-A (.313/.356/.477) but was overmatched in High-A (.206/.285/.291), and another guy with strike zone and pitch recognition concerns. Stole 19 bases and among the more-rounded toolsets in the system. Will the skills come?
18) Amalani Fukofuka, OF, Grade C+: Age 20, fifth round pick in 2013 from high school in California, excellent overall athlete hit .339/.401/.500 with 26 walks, 70 strikeouts in 280 at-bats in Pioneer League. Still raw but observers note huge improvement compared to 2014 (when he hit .183/.266/.289 in the Appy League). Has some breakout potential if contact issues don’t interfere.
19) Alec Mills, RHP, Grade C+: Age 23, Tommy John recovery guy with solid year in High-A (111/14 K/BB in 113 innings, 3.02 ERA), secondaries inconsistent but he throws strikes and works in the low-90s. Less press than most Royals pitchers but interesting.
20) Eric Skoglund, LHP, Grade C+: Age 23, third round pick in 2014, posted 3.52 ERA with 66/11 K/BB in 84 innings in High-A, throws three pitches for strikes and could be sound number four starter.
OTHER GRADE C+: Ryan O'Hearn, 1B; Chase Vallot, C
OTHERS OF NOTE: Christian Binford, RHP; Orlando Calixte, INF; Roman Collins, OF; Garrett Davila, LHP; Brandon Downes, OF; Hunter Dozier, 3B; Brett Eibner, OF; Xavier Fernandez, C; Wander Franco, 3B; Gerson Garabito, RHP; Arnaldo Hernandez, RHP; Matthew Strahm, LHP; Corey Toups, INF
I will be in the comments section Thursday morning answering questions. I will also post comments for some of the interesting Grade C guys like Ryan O’Hearn, Matthew Strahm, Corey Toups, and Chase Vallot.