The Kansas City Royals built a mini-dynasty by holding tight to a bevy of former first rounders. Now, those names are the rumors of offseason free agency, and the Royals once again look deep to its farm system for their replacements.
Let’s take a look at three prospects outside the Top 10 that should be on your radar.
Emmanuel Rivera, 3B
Rivera had his best season yet as a pro. Part of a potent Lexington Legend lineup, the 21-year-old right hander slashed .310/.364/.488 with 27 doubles and 12 home runs. While he doesn’t walk a lot (only 6.1 percent) he also doesn't strike out a lot, whiffing 87 times in 508 plate appearances.
Our own John Sickels gave Rivera a C+ in his 2018 preseason rankings, making him the No. 13 Royals prospect. I saw Rivera a couple times this summer (profile here). He was impressive both at the plate and in the field, showing range and a cannon that should allow him to stick at the hot corner.
Rivera does come with flaws, which was why he was a 21 year old in the South Atlantic League. He has so much raw power, but seems to constantly hit for high ground ball rates. He also has a lot of action in his swing, as everything seems to be moving pre pitch as he steps into the pitch with a pretty defined leg kick. It seems like he could be better if he quieted his approach.
That aside, Rivera is an exciting prospect. If he hits early at the next level and proves this season was no fluke, he could be a fast riser.
Chase Vallot, C
Vallot is an enigma. The tools and skills of his that are honed are exciting. But he still seems to be lacking in some four years into his minor league career.
He has awe-inspiring power and when he rips into one, it’s often a highlight reel home run. His power is almost all pull, and his inability to hit for average suggests he would struggle mightily with the shift as he advances through the levels. He strikes out a ton (127 times in 355 plate appearances) but he walks at an extremely high rate (18 percent of the time).
Behind the plate, he still has issues in the receiving game, despite a powerful and often accurate arm.
John’s summation in ranking him the No. 20 prospect in the system is spot on:
Age 21, compensation round pick in 2014 from high school in Louisiana; enormous power and a patient approach but strikes out a frightening amount; hit .231/.380/.438 with 22 doubles, 12 homers, 64 walks, and 127 strikeouts in 281 at-bats in High-A; one of the more unique hitters in minor league baseball; defense remains shaky with 12 errors and 10 passed balls in 59 games; it would be honestly tempting to just make him a DH and tell him to concentrate on hitting; the power is a real impact tool but remains to be seen if he can deploy it at higher levels.
Nicky Lopez, SS
Lopez was a fifth-rounder in the 2016 MLB Draft, and he could easily find his way to the big leagues by next season.
The 22-year-old currently plays shortstop, and seems to have the skills to stay there. Several reports have raved about his hands and arm, while his speed helps with his range, but John thinks he may be a better fit at second in the long run.
At the plate, he isn’t going to wow you, but he is a disciplined hitter that consistently puts the ball in play. There’s something to say about a hitter whose walks and strikeouts are on par these days, and that’s what Lopez brings, striking out and walk 52 times in 577 plate appearances.
Lopez handled the Carolina League with ease and took a little step back when promoted to Double-A. Still, with his speed and ability to put the ball in play, paired with his defensive ability up the middle, Lopez seems to be close to his big league future.