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Kansas City Royals Top 20 prospects for 2019

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Looking ahead at the future for the Kansas City Royals. . .

Arizona Fall League All Star Game
Khalil Lee
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Top 20 Kansas City Royals prospects for 2019

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.

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) Brady Singer, RHP, Grade B+: Age 22, first round pick from University of Florida in 2018; didn’t pitch in pro ball following college workload, posted 2.55 ERA in 113 innings with the Gators, 114/22 K/BB; throws 92-96 fastball and plus slider for strikes, change-up needs additional work but overall he’s polished enough to advance quickly; possible number two starter, ETA 2020.

2) MJ Melendez, C, Grade B: Age 19, second round pick in 2017 from high school in Florida; hit .251/.322/.492 with 19 homers, 43 walks, 143 strikeouts in 419 at-bats in Low-A; needs to cut down on errors but he’s mobile, athletic, and threw out 42% of runners, other defensive numbers should improve with experience; power bat from the left side with some contact concerns but was young for full-season ball and held up well overall; needs time but could be above-average player on both sides of the ball; ETA 2022.

3) Khalil Lee, OF, Grade B: Age 20, third round pick in 2016 from high school in Virginia; hit .270/.402/.406 with 48 walks, 75 strikeouts, 14 steals in 244 at-bats in High-A then .245/.330/.353 in 102 at-bats in Double-A, very young for the Texas League; hitting just .175 in the Arizona Fall League with contact problems; at his best shows patience, speed, excellent arm, and above-average power potential but has been pushed quickly and can look raw when swing is out of whack; high ceiling player who could blossom; high risk, high reward type; ETA 2021.

4) Nick Pratto, 1B, Grade B: Age 20, first round pick in 2017 from high school in California, hit .280/.343/.443 with 14 homers, 22 steals, 45 walks, 150 strikeouts in 485 at-bats in Low-A; ranks ahead of Melendez on many lists but MJ has more present power, is a little younger and plays a premium position so I’m putting him ahead; Pratto draws praise for athleticism, defense, and pure hitting skills although whiff rate was higher than anticipated; ETA 2022.

5) Jackson Kowar, RHP, Grade B: Age 22, first round pick from University of Florida in 2018, teammate of Singer at Florida, posted 3.04 ERA in 112 innings in college, 115/43 K/BB, then 3.42 ERA in 26 innings in Low-A, 22/12 K/BB; fastball into mid-90s, mixes in curveball and change-up, all three pitches flash plus but command is less consistent than Singer; also projects as a solid starter; ETA late 2020.

6) Daniel Lynch, LHP, Grade B/B-: Age 21, first round pick from the University of Virginia in 2018, posted 1.58 ERA with 61/8 K/BB in 51 innings between rookie ball and Low-A; threw harder in pro ball than in college, up to 94-96, has a plus slider and decent change-up and throws strikes; I want to see if the velocity gain maintains over a full season but he’s off to a great start; ETA late 2020.

Kansas City Royals Photo Day
Nicky Lopez
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

7) Nicky Lopez, INF, Grade B-: Age 23, fifth round pick in 2016 from Creighton University in Omaha; hit .331/.397/.416 in 281 at-bats in Double-A then .278/.364/.417 in 223 at-bats in Triple-A; combined for 60 walks and just 52 strikeouts, stole 15; line drive hitter with sharp batting eye; good speed, extremely reliable with the glove, range may be a bit limited at short but he is terrific at second and makes few mistakes at either position; ETA 2019.

8) Carlos Hernandez, RHP, Grade B-: Age 21, from Venezuela, 3.29 ERA in 79 innings in 2018 with 82/23 K/BB, 71 hits; missed August with triceps injury but supposed to be OK; 94-97 MPH when healthy, very good change-up, curveball needs more work but flashes above-average; very solid overall prospect who deserves more attention on a national basis; grade could go much higher once he proves workload; ETA 2021.

9) Yefri Del Rosario, RHP, Grade B-: Age 19, originally signed by Atlanta Braves out of Dominican Republic but granted free agency due to contract irregularities and signed with Royals; posted 3.19 ERA with 72/29 K/BB in 79 innings in Low-A, 69 hits allowed; like Hernandez he can hit 96 but secondary pitches aren’t as advanced; of course he’s also younger; like Hernandez he has breakthrough potential; ETA 2022.

10) Meibrys Viloria, C, Grade B-: Age 21, signed out of Colombia in 2013, hit .260/.342/.360 with six homers, 40 walks, 75 strikeouts in 358 at-bats in High-A; promoted to majors unexpectedly and hit .259/.286/.333 in 27 at-bats; impressive defensive catcher can stick on his glovework alone; bat is the question, controls zone reasonably and makes contact but hasn’t shown much power since leaving the Pioneer League, however he’s young and more pop may come; I’m optimistic on this one long-term.

11) Seuly Matias, OF, Grade B-: Age 20, signed out of Dominican Republic, hit .231/.303/.550 with 31 homers, 24 walks, 131 strikeouts in 338 at-bats in Low-A; 70-raw power with excellent bat speed but questions about his ability to make contact and control zone sufficiently at higher levels; has a case to go as high as number six on this list due to huge power upside but risks are also very high; ETA 2022.

12) Kyle Isbel, OF, Grade B-: Age 21, third round pick from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas in 2018, hit .326/.389/.504 in debut between Pioneer League and Low-A, seven homers, 24 steals, 26 walks, 60 strikeouts in 264 at-bats; runs well, profiles as leadoff type with speed and gap power, need to see how patience holds up a higher levels but like Lynch he’s off to a good start; ETA 2021.

13) Kris Bubic, LHP, Grade B-: Age 21, comp round pick in 2018 out of Stanford, 4.03 ERA with 53/19 K/BB in 38 innings in Pioneer League, 38 hits allowed; well-built 6-3, 220 lefty with low-90s fastball and excellent change-up; breaking ball inconsistent and command within the zone needs some tightening but has the attributes of a workhorse starter; ETA 2021.

MLB: Spring Training-Kansas City Royals at Texas Rangers
Josh Staumont
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14) Josh Staumont, RHP, Grade B-: Age 24, second round pick from Azusa Pacific in 2015, 3.51 ERA with 103/52 K/BB in 74 innings in Triple-A, 59 hits; profile hasn’t changed much, has excellent arm, can hit 99 and higher, nasty breaking ball, very high whiff rate, but control problems are still present, though not as bad as in the past; ETA 2019.

15) Richard Lovelady, LHP, Grade B-: Age 23, 10th round pick in 2016 from Kennesaw State, 2.47 ERA with 71/21 K/BB in 73 innings in Triple-A with 53 hits allowed; low-angle arm slot with fastball into mid-90s and very good slider; could make a dynamic bullpen duo with Staumont; ready for a trial; ETA 2019.

16) Michael Gigliotti, OF, Grade B-: Age 22, fourth round pick in 2017 from Lipscomb, played just six games in Low-A until blowing out knee and missing rest of the season; line drive hitter with excellent eye and impressive running speed when healthy but with questions about power; lost season makes him difficult to rank but still has a shot at moving quickly once he works rust off; ETA 2021?

17) Austin Cox, LHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 21, fifth round pick in 2018 out of Mercer, posted 3.78 ERA in 33 innings in Appalachian League, 51/15 K/BB ratio, you have to love the Ks but we need to see him against better competition; fastball 90-95, good curveball, sleeper potential should not be overlooked; ETA 2021?

18) Brewer Hicklen, OF, Grade C+/B-: Age 22, seventh round pick in 2017 from University of Alabama-Birmingham; hit .307/.378/.552 with 17 homers, 29 steals, 24 walks, 98 strikeouts in 306 at-bats in Low-A but just .211/.263/.310 with one homer, six steals, four walks, 26 strikeouts in 71 at-bats in High-A; power/speed combo is intriguing and real but plate discipline and contact ability against advanced pitching remain questionable; ETA 2021.

19) Janser Lara, RHP, Grade C+: Age 22, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2015, posted 3.41 ERA in 66 innings in Low-A, 75/28 K/BB; another live arm from the Low-A level, clocked as high as 100 MPH but secondary pitches need work and he has bullpen risk; ETA 2021.

20) Emmanuel Rivera, 3B, Grade C+: Age 22, 19th round pick in 2015 from Interamerican University of Puerto Rico; hit .274/.326/.416 with six homers, 30 walks, 65 strikeouts in 401 at-bats between High-A and brief rookie ball injury rehab; more power potential than the six homers indicates; batting eye better than the walk total; defense at third base is very good; breakthrough potential. ETA 2021.

OTHER GRADE C+: Humberto Arteaga, INF; Scott Barlow, RHP; Jonathan Bowlan, RHP; D.J. Burt, 2B; Scott Blewett, RHP; Gabriel Cancel, 2B; Eric Cole, OF; Samir Duenez, 1B; Nathan Eaton, INF-OF; Pedro Fernandez, RHP; Xavier Fernandez, C; Jecksson Flores, 3B; Gerson Garabito, RHP; Grant Gavin, RHP; Ofreidy Gomez, RHP; Foster Griffin, LHP; Kelvin Gutierrez, 3B; Jeison Guzman, SS; Nick Heath, OF; Arnaldo Hernandez, RHP; Elier Hernandez, OF; Elvis Luciano, RHP; Rito Lugo, LHP; Yunior Marte, RHP; Marcelo Martinez, LHP; Erick Mejia, INF-OF; Yohanse Morel, RHP; Trevor Oaks, RHP; Frank Schwindel, 1B; Daniel Tillo, LHP

GRADE C: Jason Adam, RHP; Cristian Castillo, LHP; J.C. Cloney, LHP; Garrett Davila, LHP ; Donnie Dewees, OF; Nick Dini, C; Cam Gallagher, C; Rubendy Jaquez, 3B; Tyler James, OF; Travis Jones, OF-1B; Rylan Kaufman, LHP; Kevin Lenik, RHP’ Andres Machado, RHP; Jose Marquez, 2B; Charlie Neuweiler, RHP; Jake Newberry, RHP; Emilio Ogando, LHP; Blake Perkins, OF; Kort Peterson, OF; Sebastian Rivero, C; Walker Sheller, RHP; Glenn Sparkman, RHP; Bubba Starling, OF; Evan Steele, LHP; Hunter Strong, OF; Ramon Torres, INF; Chase Vallot, C

SPECIAL GUEST PROSPECT: Kyle Zimmer, RHP, because you never know.

The Royals system lacks Grade A/A-/B+ type prospects and needs more impact types at this point, however they have a very large group of B- and C+s, several with the chance to improve greatly over the next year or two.

As usual in such cases the B-s could be ordered in a dozen different ways depending on what you want to emphasize.

Let’s discuss, which is the point of course!

Kris Dunn and I will be doing a podcast later this week. Send your questions to minorleagueprospects@gmail.com.