Kansas City Royals Top 20 Prospects for 2017
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. All of these grades are subject to change as the winter progresses. The final grades will be finished sometime in February when all 30 teams are complete.
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. 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) Josh Staumont, RHP, Grade B/B+: Age 22, second round pick in 2015 from Azusa Pacific; posted 4.23 ERA with 167/104 K/BB in 123 innings in Double-A/Triple-A with just 104 hits; blistering fastball at 95-100 MPH with peaks at 102; also shows a curveball ranging from below average to plus depending on the day and a change-up that needs more work; the strikeouts and low hit rates are not lying, his stuff is superb, but mechanics and resulting command remain spotty; could turn into a dominating starter as maximal outcome although may fit best in relief if command/change-up remain erratic. ETA: late 2017.
2) Hunter Dozier, 3B-OF, Grade B: Age 25, hit .296/.366/.533 with 44 doubles, 23 homers in 486 at-bats in Double-A/Triple-A, saving his career after poor ’14 and ’15 seasons; revamped hitting mechanics and a better eye restored the luster that made him a first round pick in 2013; question now is maintaining it and he’s no longer that young as prospects go due to the lost seasons; glove mediocre-to-average with strong arm but so-so range and reliability; ETA 2017.
3) Matt Strahm, LHP, Grade B: Age 25, out-of-nowhere success story posted 3.43 ERA with 107/23 K/BB in 102 innings in Double-A, then jumped to majors and posted 1.23 ERA in 22 innings in bullpen, 30/11 K/BB; 21st round pick in 2012 from Neosho County Community College in Kansas; career slowed by injuries but 90-96 MPH fastball and solid/average curve and change remain intact; has the arsenal and command to start but questions remain about his durability; there’s little doubt about his talent, just uncertainty regarding the role. ETA: 2017.
4) Eric Skoglund, LHP, Grade B-: Age 24, third round pick in 2014 from University of Central Florida; 3.45 ERA in 156 innings in Double-A with 134/38 K/BB; classic finesse lefty with 88-92 MPH fastball, curveball, change-up; throws strikes and can look intimidating at 6-7 despite lack of plus stuff; Texas League observers were impressed with his composure and pitching instincts; potential number four starter. ETA: late 2017.
5) Jorge Bonifacio, OF, Grade B-: Age 23, hit .277/.361/.466 with 19 homers, 51 walks, 130 strikeouts in 495 at-bats in Triple-A; has finally learned to tap his raw power more consistently but contact and batting average are going to be issues when he reaches the majors; right now looks like a .240-.250, 20 homersish hitter but still young enough to develop further; 60-grade outfield arm and average range make him a right fielder. ETA: 2017.
6) Ryan O’Hearn, 1B, Grade B-/C+: Age 23, hit .275/.351/.478 with 22 homers, 56 walks, 158 strikeouts in 502 at-bats in High-A and Double-A; left-side power, 55 or 60-grade; can draw walks but a lot of swing-and-miss in his game right now; had more of a pure hitter reputation in past seasons and is not a strict pull hitter; has shown more power recently but batting average/OBP could be issues in majors; glove adequate but not great; ETA late 2017.
7) Chase Vallot, C, Grade B-/C+: Age 20, compensation round pick in 2014; hit .246/.367/.463 with 13 homers, 39 walks, 118 strikeouts in 272 at-bats in Low-A; 60-grade raw power and plenty of bat speed; slash line was much better than it looks on the surface with wRC+ of 140; but has significant problems with contact; he makes an effort to work the count and can take a walk but there’s simply a lot of swing/miss here; defense remains troublesome, threw out 33% of runners but with very high passed ball and error rates; high ceiling power bat but a long way off. ETA: 2021.
8) Donnie Dewees, OF, Grade B-/C+: Age 23, second round pick by Cubs in 2015 from North Florida, traded to Royals in February for Alec Mills,; hit .284/.338/.416 with 25 doubles, 14 triples, five homers, 31 steals; runs very well and a very successful base stealer, also an above-average defensive outfielder despite weak throwing arm; may have more raw power than he’s shown so far. ETA: 2019.
9) Scott Blewett, RHP, Grade C+: Age 20, second round pick in 2014 from high school in New York; posted 4.31 ERA with 121/51 K/BB in 129 innings in Low-A; fastball at 90-95 and was consistently faster late in the year after mechanical changes; curveball and change-up remain spotty but curve in particular has good promise; still making transition from cold-weather high school arm to professional pitcher; could be number three starter down the line. ETA: 2021.
10) A.J. Puckett, RHP, Grade C+: Age 21, second round pick in 2016 from Pepperdine, posted 3.66 ERA with 37/15 K/BB in 52 innings in Low-A; low-90s fastball with a plus change-up; breaking ball draws mixed reviews and his strikeout rate was low in his debut, which is a caution flag for higher levels; projects as number four starter due to command, pitchability and instincts instead of stuff. ETA: 2019.
11) Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Grade C+: Age 25, missed almost entire season with thoracic outlet syndrome; supposed to be OK by spring training but given the track record of constant health problems it is hard to be confident; when healthy he has two plus pitches and can dominate but your guess is as good as mine on if he can stay healthy. ETA: sometime in 2017 if healthy. Watch spring reports.
12) Khalil Lee, OF, Grade C+: Age 18, third round pick in 2016 from high school in Virginia; hit .269/.396/.484 in rookie ball and drew 33 walks in 182 at-bats, albeit with 57 strikeouts; impressive tools with power, speed, throwing arm all positives; was one of the top pure athletes in the entire draft and showed enough in his debut to make us think he can tap those tools; he is a risk, but the payoff could be big. ETA: 2022.
13) Jake Junis, RHP, Grade C+: Age 24, 29th round pick in 2011 from high school in Illinois, posted 4.05 ERA with 143/34 K/BB in 149 innings between Double-A and Triple-A; like Mills he is generally in the low-90s and occasionally a touch higher; throws strikes with change-up and curveball, curve can flash plus; usually throws strikes; like Mills he could be a number four starter or a bullpen asset. ETA: 2017.
14) Meibrys Viloria, C, Grade C+: Age 19, hit .376/.436/.606 with 28 doubles, 20 walks, 36 strikeouts in 226 at-bats in Pioneer League; signed out of Colombia in 2013; left-handed batter with good pure hitting skills; contact approach with power to the gaps from 5-11, 175 pound frame; lacks running speed but has good defensive tools, though needs polish to cut down on mistakes; sleeper prospect to watch as he transitions to full-season ball in 2017. ETA: 2021.
15) Garrett Davila, LHP, Grade C+: Age 19, fourth round pick in 2015 from high school in North Carolina; posted 2.77 ERA with 55/27 K/BB in 65 innings in Appalachian League; lacks blistering stuff with 88-92 MPH fastball but has a very good change-up and a workable curve; another potential strike-throwing fourth starter down the line: ETA: 2021.
16) Samir Duenez, 1B, Grade C+: Age 20, from Venezuela, hit combined .284/.336/.438 with 33 doubles, 13 homers, 100 RBI, 39 walks, 86 strikeouts, 26 steals between Low-A/High-A/Double-A; was just placed on 40-man roster; limited to first base and is a mediocre defender at the position but he’s young and has shown some sock with the bat. ETA: 2019.
17) Seuly Matias, OF, Grade C+: Age 18, signed out of Dominican Republic for $2,250,000 in 2015; hit .250/.348/.477 with eight homers, 22 walks, 73 strikeouts in 172 at-bats in rookie ball; 60-grade power, 65 or 70 arm, runs well too but has significant contact issues he’ll need to address as he moves up; very high ceiling as a power hitter but risky. ETA: 2022.
18) Pedro Fernandez, RHP, Grade C+: Age 22, posted 3.02 ERA with 50/21 K/BB in 63 innings between High-A and Double-A; from Dominican Republic; just 6-0 but can hit 95, also has a good change-up; breaking pitch remains inconsistent, varying between slider and cutter action with erratic definition; this showed up in lowish strikeout rate. Has plenty of arm strength though and could be fine reliever eventually. ETA: 2018.
19) Andrew Edwards, RHP, Grade C: Age 25, 19th round pick in 2013 from Western Kentucky, posted 3.96 ERA with 74/33 K/BB in 61 innings between Double-A and Triple-A; fastball at 94-99 MPH with movement; at least a plus pitch; slider isn’t as good as the heat and his control comes and goes; middle relief candidate. ETA: late 2017.
20) Cam Gallagher, C, Grade C: Age 23, second round pick in 2011; bat has never really developed but defense has turned out very well; added to 40-man roster this past weekend; hit .259/.348/.359 in Double-A but threw out 50% of runners and maintains very low passed ball and error rates; glove will get him to the majors; at one time his bat was well-regarded and perhaps it can still come around someday. ETA; 2017.
OTHERS OF NOTE (all Grade C): Miguel Almonte, RHP; Ricky Aracena, SS; Anthony Bender, RHP; Cristian Castillo, LHP; Xavier Fernandez, C; Marten Gasparini, SS; Foster Griffin, LHP; Jeison Guzman, SS; Elier Hernandez, OF; Nicky Lopez, SS; Richard Lovelady, LHP; Anderson Miller, OF; Manny Olloque, 3B; Kort Peterson, OF; Brooks Pounders, RHP; Corey Ray, RHP; Sebastian Rivero, C; Ashe Russell, RHP; Bubba Starling, OF; Glenn Sparkman, RHP; Ramon Torres, INF; Corey Toups, INF; Nolan Watson, RHP
The Royals system has thinned out a lot over the last few years but they do have a World Series championship to show for it. Unfortunately there’s not a lot of immediate impact help on the horizon. With the possible exception of Dozier the bats close to the majors look more like decent role player than future starters; there are some toolsy guys at the lower levels like Lee but the Royals haven’t had much luck turning athletic tool sets like Bubba Starling or Elier Hernandez into actual players. Vallot has a chance to be something like Mike Napoli or Mickey Tettleton.
The pitching side offers Staumont, Strahm, and Skoglund who could help soon and maybe Kyle Zimmer if he can stay away from the doctors. There are several potential fourth starters and relief arms but the failure of heralded arms like Foster Griffin, Ashe Russell, and Nolan Watson to develop has been a major blow.