Cream of the Crop – The Royals’ Top 20 Farmhands

Alex and Brenden will be creating their own top 20 prospects per organization. The methodology is simple: they develop their own top 20’s, average  them together, then have friendly arguments about who should be higher or lower. The first organization up for them to review is the Kansas City Royals.

1. Daniel Lynch LHP

Age – 22

HT/WT –  6’6″ 190 lbs

Current Level – A

Alex’s Take – 

Probably the player who has impressed me the most since the draft in the 2018 class. When the Royals selected him 34th overall last year, I was scratching my head a bit and assumed it was to save money for signing Singer. First time I saw him pitch for Lexington, I was hooked. Fastball was up from 88-90 to 93-96 and touching 98 with command. Lynch mixes in 3 offspeed offerings. His best is a power slider with left/right hook, followed by nice change-up with similar arm motion to his heater adding to its deceptiveness. Curveball can be slurvy at times and is inconsistent game to game, but when it is on, it is an MLB pitch.

With his long, lean 6-6 190 frame and considering he’d already thrown a full season of college ball (where he averaged nearly 7 ip per start) it’s very conceivable with a fresh arm and room to add 20 good pounds to his frame, Lynch is still projectable for more velocity. Already showing plus control, Lynch shows the athleticism and repeatable delivery required for plus command. He sequences well for his age, often starting counts with offspeed stuff, a great sign as he makes the jump to A+ and beyond. Virginia is famous for doing weird things to players mechanics (see Adam Haseley) and Lynch’s sudden jump in velocity and spin aren’t a shock as he budded heads with coaches at UVA about mechanics after his dominant 2017 cape cod performance with different coaching. All in all, Lynch has the size to generate extension and gain perceived velocity, an innings eater build, projectability, 4 legitimate pitches, up to 98 mph heat that he holds in his 93-95 range late into starts, plus control, the pieces for plus command and has shown he can throw 135 plus innings already. Ingredients are there for a #2 starter and I think this will be a name popping up on a lot of mid-season lists as scouts get more new looks at post draft Lynch.

Brenden’s Take – 

Lynch was drafted in the Comp round of the 2018 draft out of Virginia. He pitched in 12 games between rookie ball and A ball with impressive results, posting K/9 above 10.5 and BB/9 around 1.5. He has a 4 pitch mix: fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup. Lynch is one of those players that comes around every once in awhile. His scouting reports from college and the college tape are not translating to his brief professional debut. In college, his fastball sat between 89-93 but in a start from A ball I watched he was getting more downhill with a fastball hitting as high as 97! The fastball seemed pretty straight but when he threw it up in the zone he was untouchable, so looks like the spin rate doctor has gotten to another pitcher and the results are promising. He has above average command and control and with better coaching, it seems that he is a player to watch from the 2018 class that many aren’t talking about. The slider is currently above average but shows some good depth and has a good chance to be a plus pitch. The changeup shows to about average as well. The curveball I wasn’t impressed by and think it’s a pitch that will eventually get scrapped in his development but he seems like he’s coachable based on the quick changes he’s been able to make so who knows maybe that could play up as well. Go watch some of his starts once he got to the minors and I promise you will not be disappointed by what you see, and hopefully understand why he grabbed the number one spot.

Ceiling – SP 2

Floor – SP 5

Expectation – SP 3

Risk – Low

ETA – 2021

2. Khalil Lee OF 

Age – 20

HT/WT – 5’10” 170 lb

Handedness – L/L

Alex’s Take – 

Likely the player in the system with the highest upside. At age 19, Lee flashed his 20/20 upside in 2017 finishing with 17 home runs and 20 stolen bases (which came with 18 CS). With a heavy uppercut swing, Lee has 60-grade raw power and 55-grade raw speed. He will also strikeout a lot, something he remedied in 2018 by starting his swing early and slowing it down a bit, resulting in less power and a higher GB rate. The hit concerns will Likely always be there given his swing path and issues hitting spin, but the pop and speed are real and he’s done well at very aggressive assignments for his age. Still just 20 and at AA, Lee has plenty of time to adjust. Defensively, much like his base running, Lee’s made big strides in running crisper routes/getting good jumps although there is still room to grow and his arm is legitimate 60 grade and should allow him to play in right if necessary. Lee is risky and has a wide array of possible outcomes, but he will always have good speed/power and arm strength and that gives him a higher floor than most risk/reward type prospects.

Brenden’s Take – 

Royals 3rd round draft pick from 2016. He played all three OF positions but has mostly played CF in the minors. He was a two-way prospect when he was drafted but has focused on becoming an offensive player as a professional. Lee is filled with raw power with a strong upper cut swing from the left side, plus speed and a plus throwing arm.  Hit tool needs work but the potential is enticing with an incredibly athletic build and at 20 and finally spending all his time at developing his offensive profile. The floor is a little scary since he hasn’t shown the power in games without his K% spiking. His first two years he was posting ISO’s around .200 but had K% approaching 30%. Last year he was able to decrease his K% to 24% but his power plummeted to barely above .130. He also has struggles with off speed stuff, where he gets out on his front foot way too often. Another thing that he needs to improve is getting the ball in the air more as his GB% are above 45%. He’s obviously working through his strikeout problems but it is eating into his power production, so it will be interesting if he will be able to accomplish this and put it all together. I’m a fan of betting on the athletes, and the Royals have been fairly aggressive with him and he’s awarded their aggressiveness enough. I think next year will be Lee’s huge jump in development where we will finally get a glimpse of the player he can be.

Ceiling – .270/.330/.485 23 HR 22 SB

Floor – 4th OF

Expectation – .255/.315/.425 16 HR 16 SB

Risk – High

ETA – 2020

3. Brady Singer RHP

Age – 22

HT/WT – 6-5 210 lb

Level – N/A

Alex’s Take – 

Singer has the most name value on this list. Entering 2018 in the 1-1 discussion, dominating SEC play en route to a CWS appearance and entering the draft considered a clear top 5 pick on most boards and mocks. Concerns about a delivery that hyper extends his elbow, lack of a solid third pitch and cost to sign dropped Singer right into the Royals excited laps at pick 18.

Despite the concerns, Singer has been nothing but truly dominant at all levels of his career and has one of the better fastball slider combos in the minor leagues. Singer has two plus fastballs, a 4 seamer that lives 93-95 with elite tailing life and a ground ball generating sinking two seamer that lives 91-93. He commands both very well. His slider has NAAAASTY movement and he alters the movement and depth at will via his arm slot. It’s a legitimate 60-grade pitch, but the altering of his mechanics can cause him to get out of whack at times and lose command of it. It has a ceiling higher of a 70 offering in my opinion. His changeup I’ve only seen a few times and simply flashed the potential to be average. Simply put, he didn’t need it in college because his other FB/Slider was too dominant. Singer is an excellent athlete and competitor and the makeup is a clear plus. At a skinny 6-5 210, Singer could still add on some weight to his frame. Assuming elbow health (his Mechanics are scary and he had a reported elbow concern when he was drafted out of high school in the second round) everything will hinge on the changeup. If it’s there, Singer looks like a 2 or a 3. If it’s not, he checks every box you look for in a closer.

Brenden’s Take – 

2018 1st round pick out of Florida.  Didn’t pitch after being drafted. Throws from the low 3/4 arm slot with a whipping arm motion. Fastball sits low-mid 90’s with great arm side run that should give right handers plenty of issues. Slider has great depth and movement but due to his arm angle at times it can flatten out so it does lack some consistency but overall would rate it as a plus pitch, possibly even plus-plus. Didn’t throw many changeups in college but the few I saw had potential. He has the potential to be a 3 pitch middle of the rotation starter. I have concerns over his durability with his high effort delivery. Definitely not a 200 IP arm, probably closer to 150 IP but should be an effective 150 IP if he stays healthy. I think he lacks upside of many arms in his class but with an impressive college track record, his floor is pretty stable if the changeup develops as expected. If the changeup doesn’t develop he could become an ace bullpen arm with a great fastball/slider combo with the mentality to dominate there.

Ceiling – SP 2

Floor – High Leverage Reliever

Expectation – SP 3

Risk – Medium

ETA – 2020

4. Jackson Kowar RHP

Age – 22

HT/WT – 6-5 180

Level – A

Alex’s Take –

Kowar just can’t escape Brady Singer. Stuck behind Singer in the pecking order at the University of Florida, Kowar was again picked behind Singer in the draft as the Royals second pick in the 1st round (33rd overall). However, many would say Kowar has the higher ceiling. While I don’t necessarilly agree, I think he has a very similar ceiling. Kowar pairs a powerful mid 90’s fastball with a devastating changeup and a ‘meh’ curve. The heater lives 93-95 with HEAVY sink and can be ramped up to 97. This should generate a ton of groundballs and is a 60-grade pitch. His changeup is one of the better of its kind when he has full command of it, dropping off of the table with similar arm action to his heater and should be his swing and miss offering, while also forcing even more groundballs. Much like Singer, Kowar’s two pitch combo was just too dominant for him to need to develop a third pitch, leading to a mediocre at best curveball that will need to be advanced if he wants to start. Unlike Singer, Kowar suffers from command/control issues and a decent amount of inconsistency. Like Lynch and somewhat Singer, Kowar has plenty of room to fill out his frame and could be projectable as well. The ceiling is an SP2 again, but the red flags are more than Lynch and floor is lower than Singer.

Brenden’s Take –

Kowar was drafted in the Comp round of the 2018 MLB draft out of Florida with his teammate Singer. Pitcher’s body at 6’5″ and 180 lbs from the right side. Kowar throws from a 3/4 arm slot and finishes upright. He has three pitches: fastball, curve, and changeup. The fastball is firm and sits low-mid 90’s, with projection for more velocity as he matures. The changeup is the money pitch though. Great arm action with arm side dropping motion, definitely a plus pitch for him. The curveball is a work in progress sometimes he will throw a good one but often times he struggles to get on top of the pitch and misses badly. He will need to improve this pitch greatly to reach his potential. I think the fastball/changeup combo is good enough to let him be a starter in the majors but I think he will need to develop an above average breaking ball of some kind to reach his potential. Honestly, I like Kowar more than Singer at the moment but can’t go wrong with any of the top 3 arms on this system.

Ceiling – SP 2

Floor – Groundball Specialist from the Bullpen

Expectation – SP 3

Risk – High

ETA – 2021

5. M.J. Melendez C

Age – 19

HT/WT – 6’1″ 185 lb

Handedness – L/R

Level – A

Alex’s Take –

Choosing to sign with the Royals instead of playing for his dad at Florida International after being the Royals 2nd round pick in 2017, Melendez is a plus plus athlete for a catcher. With great behind the plate skills and a cannon arm, you could make a case for MJ as the 2nd best defensive catcher in the minors behind Sean Murphy.  Both are genuine 60s defensively. But that’s not all Melendez offers. MJ has 60 raw power and shows the ability to get to it in games with a .241 ISO as a 19-year-old in an advanced level last year. He also currently has 50 speed (at least for now), which is bordering on elite for a catcher and a sign of his plus athleticism. The question mark here is the hit tool. Melendez shows a troubling amount of swing and miss with 30.3% k rates both years in the pros, not having touched A+ off speed stuff yet. That jump is going to be a big challenge and will tell us a lot about who he is as a prospect. If he improves or maintains with the jump to A+, watch for him to start to creep into top 100 lists. If the K-rate goes up….watch for him to drop until he fixes it. If he can even have a 40 hit, I think MJ will be a full time starting catcher in the MLB due to his defense and pop, which would make him very fantasy relevant these days. I personally was a bit higher on MJ than 5th, but the downside has to be factored in as well.

Brenden’s Take –

Melendez was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2017 draft. Melendez has a good athletic frame that should add strength without sacrificing his defensive abilities behind the plate. He has a strong throwing arm, sets a good low target, and by all accounts is a good game caller. Grades as an above-average defensive catcher. His swing has some holes. He uses a leg kick to get his rotation initiated (the leg kick as been shortened a good bit which is good) and can generate good power. The hands are quick but overall the swing is long. He does shorten up his swing a good bit in 2 strike counts but at the sacrifice of power. Shouldn’t expect a league average hit tool but if he manages to hit .250 with that power he should be a top fantasy option at the position with his defense being more than good enough to start a large number of games.

Ceiling – .265/.335/.490 27 HR  7  SB (140 Starts)

Floor – Platoon Catcher

Expectation – .235/.315/.450 22 HR 5 SB (130 Starts)

Risk – Medium

ETA – 2022

6. Kyle Isbel OF

Age – 21

HT/WT – 5’11” 185

 Handedness – L/R

Level – A

Alex’s Take –

When scouts talk about Kyle Isbel, the term “gamer” often comes up. No one tool truly wows you, but every tool is solid. He’s a sum of all his parts player, who’s advanced, has good work ethic, and has no real weak spots to his game. Hit, power, raw, speed, glove and arm are all 50-55 grade tools (run could be 60). Very high floor, medium ceiling. Can play all 3 outfield spots including center and should dominate lower levels and rise quickly.

Brenden’s Take –

Isbel was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2018 draft. Isbel came out the gates swinging, dominating rookie ball as an advanced 21-year-old player. He faced a little more resistance in Low A but still was able to put up good numbers. However, the K% increased by 10% in the promotion. I think with his swing, he often gets caught out on his front foot a little too often so he needs to work on staying more balanced in his stance so he can stay back on the baseball. Overall I really like Isbel, he’s a player that plays the game hard and it allows his average to above average tools to play up. He might not top 25 homers or SB in a season but there’s a lot to like with this kid. He has the look of an above average big leaguer in my opinion.

Ceiling – .283/.347/.475 19 HR 21 SB

Floor – Current Day Alex Gordon

Expectation – .268/.338/.445 16 HR 18 SB

Risk – Very Low

7. Nick Pratto 1B

Age – 20

HT/WT – 6’1″ 195 lb

Handedness – L/L

Level – A

Alex’s Take –

Likely the most divisive player in the system, Nick Pratto either draws rave reviews or gets a ‘meh’ depending on who you ask. A standout two way player in HS, the Royals paid Pratto an over slot bonus at pick 14 to come on as a 1B. The results have been underwhelming, but the raw tools are still shining. Pratto has plus bat speed and great athleticism for a 1B, much like Evan White of the Mariners and should be the rare plus defensive 1B. He’s starting to get to plus raw power and shows excellent base running instincts, although I’m not so sure about his speed. With the jumps he gets 7-10 steals still seem reasonable at prime, which I’ll take out of a 1B. The big issue here is identifying spin and making consistent contact. It’s been a real struggle so far and is taking away from what should otherwise be a plus hit tool. The jump to A+ will be a tough test but will tell us a lot. Pratto finished strong last year and has momentum heading into 2019. Much like Melendez, if he handles the jump to A+ well, he will start jumping up lists.

Brenden’s Take –

Pratto was drafted in the first round of the 2017 draft. Looks physically mature at his age, don’t think there’s too much room for additional muscle. His swing is simple with his hands already very close to a ready position (simply shifts them back a couple inches as he begins his swing), little leg kick and good weight transfer. He generates good power to all fields and he is still learning how to use it. He has a good feel at the plate but does look like he has some struggles with breaking stuff in the minors so far. K% is a little high at the lower levels sitting above 25% but with more reps and a simple swing, he will hopefully better grasp how to read pitches. I’m a fan of Pratto and think he could become a Votto-type player if he works out his off speed problems.

Ceiling – .285/360/.505 31 HR 10 SB

Floor – Never figures out spin and gets stuck at AA

Expectation – .265/.330/.470 25 HR 7 Sb

Risk – High

ETA – 2021

8. Carlos Hernandez RHP

Age – 21

HT/WT – 6’4″ 175 lb

Level – A

Alex’s Take –

The last of the Royals clump of 21-year-old A-level pitchers with SP2 ceilings. Hernandez is raw, signed out of Venezuela just 2 years ago for only $15k, but the stuff is nasty and he made major steps forward harnessing it last year. Still projectable at 6-4 175, Hernandez can already gun his fastball up to 97 and shows the tools to get it up to triple digits, though I’d personally sacrifice some speed for movement. The changeup isn’t quite as good as Jackson Kowar’s, but it mirrors his arm movement on the fastball and should be able to keep lefties at bay. He also mixes in a curveball that has great shape and spin when its on, but is very inconsistent. Development of the curve will determine if he’s a starter or not. If not, he could be used as a setup man. Hernandez made major strides in control in 2018. IF command follows in 2019, he will be a name you will become very familiar with by the end of the year.

Brenden’s Take –

Right handed pitcher signed out of Venezuela at 19 years old in 2016. I think there’s a lot to like with Hernandez. He still has a lot of room to grow and with the arm action and mid 90’s fastball he already possesses, I think triple digit heat isn’t out of the question. He throws the fastball with movement (generally glove side cut-like action). I think this has the potential to be a plus pitch for him. The curve has good movement to it but isn’t particularly sharp, I do see it becoming an average offering for him. His next best pitch is his changeup (shocker, it seems like I’ve been saying that for every Royals pitcher). The changeup has the potential to be a plus offering for him. He has top of the rotation potential but most likely will lack the consistency to reach that potential.

Ceiling – SP 2

Floor – 7th-8th inning RP

Expectation – SP 4 with occasional dominant games

Risk – High

ETA – 2022

9. Seuly Matias OF

Age – 20

HT/WT – 6’3″ 200

Handedness – R/R

Level – A

Alex’s Take –

Most people know Seuly and will probably be upset to see him this low, and he could easily jump up. The Royals have probably the closest 1-10 of any Org. The carrying tool with Seuly is legitimate 80-grade raw power, which at just 19 he can already get to in games. More athletic than you’d expect, Seuly moves around fine in the outfield and has an absolute cannon that plays very well in right field. He will thicken out as time goes, but for now, he possesses plus speed as well. Monster bat speed in his uppercut swing makes it clear how he hit 31 home runs in just 338 at bats despite striking out 131 times. This is easily the premier power bat in the minors (maybe Nolan Gorman has a case) but the ability to identify spin, protect the zone and make contact on swings just aren’t there yet. And compounding that, his hit tool struggles may be a product of his home run geared swing. The plate discipline needs to improve, as right now he is a two outcome player that needs to add walks to his profile. But if he starts taking walks, he has a viable path to a starting job that his arm in right and power should help along. IF he tones down his uppercut just a bit to gear for more contact, while learning to identify spin and where the zone is…this could be the next Aaron Judge. But as of now, he looks more like the next Pedro Alvarez at the plate. If you want to gamble on a prospect, this is a fun bet.

Brenden’s Take –

Signed by the Royals in 2016 out of the Dominican Republic. Wide stance with minimal stride, power comes from him lower half via strong rotation. Gets his left foot positioned towards the pitcher to help with rotation and gets great extension on the baseball to generate a lot of power. Matias needs a lot of work when it comes to his approach as he is already striking out 35% of the time in A ball, which will only get worse as he continues to see better competition if his contact skills don’t improve. He is also only walking 6.4% of the time so he is aggressive at the plate potentially with no plan at the plate. He has 40+ homer potential, but he’s going to have to learn how to hit .240 to reach that power potential. Matias is a pretty solid defender despite his size, moving much better than you’d anticipate. His arm is plus so he profiles nicely in RF but his floor is low if the hit tool doesn’t develop as he could become simply a bench power bat.

Ceiling – Khris Davis with Plus Defense

Floor – The Other Chris Davis

Expectation – .225/.290/.520 30 HR 5 SB (450 AB)

Risk – Very High

ETA – 2022

10. Nicky Lopez SS/2B

Age – 23

HT/WT – 5’11” 175 lb

Handedness – L/R

Level – AAA

Alex’s Take –

“Scrappy” “Hard-Nosed” “Gamer” “Grinder” these are the kinds of words that come up when people talk about Nicky Lopez. The power just isn’t there but he has a solid speed, makes good contact, has elite plate discipline and plays multiple positions well. Highest floor a guy could have, but the ceiling isn’t much different. Your classic likable super utility guy who will hit for average, have eligibility all over the place and get 450 PA.

Brenden’s Take –

Lopez was drafted in the 5th round of the 2016 draft. Defensively, he is an above average SS or 2B, good arm, good athleticism can make all the plays. His hitting profile is lacking though. He has a good hit tool but very little power. He also doesn’t have the speed to be a dangerous threat on the bases. He hits enough where he should be a big league regular but won’t do much for counting stats.

Ceiling – .305/.375/.400 10 HR 18 SB (Full Time Player)

Floor – Bench Bat

Expectation – .280/.350/.380 5 HR 15 SB (450 PA)

Risk – Very Low

ETA – 2019

11. Kris Bubic LHP

Age – 21

HT/WT – 6’3″ 220 lb

Level – R

Alex’s Take –

Similar to Daniel Lynch, Bubic is a pitcher who dominated the Cape in 2017 (Cape Cod league pitcher of the year) and comes from a system known for teaching players weird mechanics (Stanford). While Bubic was the more dominant college player, his stuff hasn’t quite jumped the same way Lynch’s has since reaching the pros and the mechanical issues are still there. Bubic has a weird pause at the back of his delivery and will be easy to run on and It also could be causing the control issues that saw him walk 19 batters in just 38 rookie ball innings last year. The lurch could also lead to injury concerns down the line. The stuff is good though, 91-93 (up to 95) with a fastball that has sink. Arguably the 2nd best changeup in the draft behind Kowar is his strikeout pitch and he has a curveball that looks to be average and should change hitters eye levels. He’s comfortable starting at-bats with a change, curve, change sequence which is a great sign for his pitchability as he goes through the system. Control has been good in college and should return. Floor seems high but ceiling doesn’t wow me, I think he’s a starter though.

Brenden’s Take –

Bubic was drafted in the 5th round of the 2018 MLB draft. His delivery emulates Kershaw well. A lot of extension. 3 pitch mix: fastball, curve, and changeup. The fastball sits low 90’s but can touch 95. It has good arm side movement. The changeup is a plus pitch with good arm speed and is commanded well allowing it to play up. The curveball is below average but shows some glimpses of being a average pitch. If all goes right Bubic can be an inning eating starter in the middle of the rotation.

Ceiling – SP 3

Floor – Swing Starter

Expectation – SP 4

Risk – Low

ETA – 2021

12. Yohanse Morel RHP

Age – 18

HT/WT – 6’2″ 185 lb

Level – R

Alex’s Take –

A big part of the Kelvin Herrera deal, Morel is freshly 18 with a projectable, strong build and a low 90s fastball with solid tailing action from a low arm slot. He throws a hard changeup that lives in the high 80s but has solid tumble and is thrown from identical arm slot to his heater. He’s working to develop a slider that as of now has tight spin, but lacks command or consistency. Its easy to dream on more velocity as he matures with a plus change, the slider coming together and his athleticism leading to good control. But he’s also just 18 and requires plenty of projection, while being untested.

Brenden’s Take –

Morel was signed by the Nationals in 2017 out of the DR and was traded to the Royals as a part of the Kelvin Herrera deal. John Eshleman of 2080 Baseball wrote a report on him stating that Morel has grown to possibly 6’2″ and 190 lbs now. He gets downhill throwing from a 3/4 arm slot with limited stress on the arm. He has a big frame and has growing to do so should be able to throw harder as he matures. His pitch mix at the moment: fastball, slider and a changeup. The fastball has some good movement to it with good command on both sides of the plate. He has a good feel for his changeup that has good arm side movement and can use it against righties or lefties. The slider is a project but looks to be able to get good spin on it. There is a lot of development left to do for Morel but there is some good projection on him physically and I love a pitcher that young have a good feel for his changeup. He’s got a lot of development time ahead of him where things could go wrong, but the potential is as enticing.

Ceiling – SP 2

Floor – Bullpen/Organizational Depth

Expectation – SP 3

Risk – Very High

ETA – 2024

13. Michael Gigliotti OF

Age – 22

HT/WT – 6’1″ 180 lb

Handedness – L/L

Level – A

Alex’s Take –

Small school college bat with a plus hit tool, great plate discipline, and good speed. Shows ability to hit for average and avoid strikeouts, but won’t drive the ball. Plus defender in center and left, but the throwing arm is weak, so right field is off of the table. Coming off of a torn ACL with a speed driven profile is risky (just look at Kyle Lewis) but if he’s fully recovered its a lead off type tool set.

Brenden’s Take –

Gigliotti is a left hitting OF who was drafted in the 4th round of the 2017 draft by the Royals. Had a good professional debut hitting about .320 across two levels and stealing 22 bases but had troubles his second season. Gigliotti has a patient approach at the plate (some scouts seem to say that this is a detriment) and has great knowledge of the strike zone. He is able to make good contact but has below average power. Can drive the ball to the gaps though. He has plus plus speed that has already been on display so far in the minors and works well in the OF and described as one of the better defenders in the Royals system.

Ceiling – .264/.340/.419 10 HR 25+ SB (Full Time Starter)

Floor – 4th OF

Expectation – .244/.330/. 400 5 HR 15 SB (450 PA)

Risk – Medium

ETA – 2021

14. Elvis Luciano RHP

Age – 18

HT/WT – 6’2″ 185

Level – R

Alex’s Take –

Luciano is an easy guy to dream on. At just 18 he flashes a mid 90s fastball with sink that tops out at 96, paired with a curveball that is a plus pitch when its on and a decent changeup. Not surprisingly, Luciano is raw. His stuff fluctuates from day to day, command comes and goes, control comes and goes, etc. But his repeatable mechanics and plus athleticism make it easy to dream on him developing command over time. Still physically maturing at just 18 with an athletes frame, Luciano also offers projection for even more velocity down the line. Ingredients are there for a mid rotation starter, but if he can’t find consistency, he can focus on his curve and the arsenal should play well in the pen.

Brenden’s Take –

Luciano was signed by the Dbacks in 2016 and was acquired by the Royals in the trade of Jon Jay. He has a repeatable delivery throwing from a 3/4 armslot and gets good extension allowing his fastball (which already can reach 96) to play up a bit. He also has a breaking ball (slurvy) that he can really spin but is inconsistent. His changeup has split reports with BA reporting good feel while Fangraphs and 2080 Baseball view it in a more negative light. Everyone seems to agree that the ingredients are there for a potential rotation arm.

Ceiling – SP 3

Floor – Middle Relief

Expectation – SP 4

Risk – High

ETA – 2023

15. Yefri Del Rosario RHP

Age – 19

HT/WT – 6’2″ 180 lb

Level – A

Alex’s Take –

Rosario is another young projectable arm with nasty raw stuff, but with a lack of present command. Fastball has excellent right-to-left life, living 91-95 and reaching 97 at times. Wipeout slider is a legit strikeout pitch and will flash 60-65 when its on, but he has a lot of trouble controlling it. Changeup is developing. A high effort cross body throwing motion hints at a bullpen future, where he would have closer potential, but the hope is still there for a high strikeout back end starter, maybe more if he can clean up the mechanics and keep his stuff.

Brenden’s Take –

Del Rosario was originally signed by the Braves in 2016 for $1M but due to violations made by the Braves was declared a FA and signed by the Royals a year later. He has a high effort delivery with incredible arm speed that when he matures should produce a plus fastball in the mid 90’s. He also possesses a nice curveball that he’s not afraid to throw in any count and also projects to be plus pitch, but needs to work to throw it more consistently. The changeup is a work in progress and will determine whether he becomes a starter or bullpen piece. I’m a little concerned with his high effort delivery and his durability but he’s athletic enough where it might be a non-issue if developed correctly. I think he has mid-to-top of the rotation potential, but also has closer potential if moved to the bullpen.

Ceiling – SP 2

Floor – High Strikeout Reliever

Expectation – SP 4 with strikeouts but unable to throw enough innings to be more

Risk – High

ETA – 2022

16. Omar Florentino SS

Age – 16

HT/WT – 5’9″ 150 lb

Handedness – S/R

Level – N/A

Alex’s Take –

One of the Royals top J2 signings, Florentino offers fantastic defense at short with a plus arm and fantastic bat speed for a guy his age and size, as well as decent speed and athleticism. Florentino shows the makings of a highlight reel shortstop defensively with great quickness, glove, instincts, transfer, and a very accurate arm. Like his defense, his switch-hitting bat is fluid, athletic and very advanced for his age. The ball does not come off of his bat like you’d expect from a person his size and the swing is quick, short and gets the barrel on the ball. Risk is obvious when you are talking about a freshly turned 16 year old without much fanfare and no pro experience, but I’m very high on Florentino as a two way player. Check out Baseball America’s tape on him at just 15.

Brenden’s Take –

Signed by the Royals last year out of the DR. 5’9″ frame that has all the looks of a potential stellar defender at SS. Great hands, quick release, strong arm and quick twitch. The swing is impressive too for his youth. Really quick wrists with surprising pop from his frame. He’s fun to dream on but the looks of it he looks like he could be a special player. Even if the offense doesn’t develop, it looks like his defense should be more than enough to give him a decent floor even at 16 years old.

Ceiling – High Average, Top of the Order Hitter with an above average Glove

Floor – Even though he’s so far away and hasn’t even played a professional game yet, his defense should be enough to make him a defensive first utility player at worst.

Expectation – .270/.325/.385 10 HR 16 SB

Risk – Very High

ETA – 2024

17. Brewer Hicklen OF

Age – 22

HT/WT – 6’2″ 205 lb

Handedness – R/R

Level – A+

Alex’s Take – 

If you like Kyler Murray, Hicklen has to be an interesting prospect to you. A wide receiver in college, Hicklen went pro as a draft eligible sophomore and displays an excellent blend of power/speed with the rawness you’d expect from a guy who was a football first player his first 20 years of life. Hicklen’s A ball pace would have been 34 home runs, 58 stolen bases and 196 strikeouts had he played 162 games. That basically sums up Hicklen, good pop, great athleticism, excellent speed, terrible hit tool and ability to identify spin. The jump from A to A+, is the biggest talent jump until you reach the majors, and Hicklen looked over matched at A+. But he has a great work ethic, solid raw tools and is still catching up development wise. He’s an interesting guy to watch this year. Legit 20-25 potential but with a very low floor.

Brenden’s Take –

Hicklen was drafted in the 7th round of the 2017 draft. He was a two star athlete at UAB and after the UAB Football team was disbanded decided to take on baseball full time. He is a toolsy player with plus speed that allows him to play a good CF and raw power with a powerful swing. His approach at the plate is raw to say the least, striking out 30% of the time with few walks. He tore up A ball this past season but struggled mightily in A+ this past season. There are some tools here that could make him an interesting player going forward but there is a lot of work to do to reach that potential. At the moment I see him as a dynamic 4th OF type player at his ceiling.

Ceiling – .250/.310/.460 17 HR 20 SB (Lower Tier Starter)

Floor – Doesn’t even sniff the majors as his hit tool struggles to develop

Expectation – .234/.306/.405 9 HR 15 SB (4th OF)

Risk – High

ETA – 2021

18. Austin Cox LHP

Age – 21

HT/WT – 6’4″ 185 lb

Level – R

Alex’s Take –

Small school arm from Mercer. Pairs a low 90s fastball with great movement (run and sink) with a loopy 12-6 curve that has good power and decent slider/change. 4 pitches is a good sign and I think he could gain some additional strength. Needs to learn to throw strikes but has had a surprising ability to generate Ks. Might be interesting if that continues at higher levels since I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s generating high spin rates. Looks like a 4 or 5 to me.

Brenden’s Take –

Cox was drafted in the 5th round of the 2018 draft by the Royals. In his professional debut he posted some eye-popping numbers with a 13.77 K/9 but despite the strikeout rate he surprisingly gives up a good bit of hard contact. He throws from a high 3/4 (almost over the top) arm slot with a delivery that is slightly out of control. He uses a short stride and can over rotate often times missing the zone. Cox possesses two above average breaking balls with the slider and curve (the curve being the better pitch). He has an average fastball that gets up to 94 mph but has issues sustaining it into games. He also has a potentially average changeup. There’s the makings of a back end starter with strikeout potential but I’m curious if he could fill a Josh Hader-esqe role and be a strikeout long reliever.

Ceiling – SP 4 with Strikouts

Floor – Swing Starter 

Expectation – SP 4/5 with Strikeouts

Risk – Medium

ETA – 2020

19. Josh Staumont RHP

Age – 24

HT/WT – 6’3″ 200 lb

Level – AAA

Alex’s Take –

Staumont has insanely good raw top 2 pitches. 4-seam fastball lives 95-99 and hits as high as 102 in the pen. 2-seamer has great sink and is mid 90s. Hammer curve is a legit 60. Changeup is garbage, but it’s there. Delivery is solid. When you see that, you’d think this guy could be at least a 2, maybe an ace…but the guy just has zero control. Can’t identify why on tape but its held true since he was drafted in 2015. Lack of third pitch probably keeps him in the pen no matter what, but if he can gain even average control/command he could be a special closer.

Brenden’s Take –

Staumont is a right handed pitching prospect drafted in the 2nd round of the 2015 draft by the Royals.  Big fastball, plus power curveball. He has top of the rotation stuff but well below average command/control. Often gets himself behind in counts and while triple digit heat is nice, when you’re walking almost a batter an inning it gets tough to be as dominant as you dream he could be with the stuff he possesses. I can’t even rely on him being a ace reliever because with the control issues he’s going to be a detriment in close games. The Royals have already begun moving him to the bullpen as he only made a handful of starts this past year (none even reaching 5 innings) so the bullpen is his future but his control still needs work as he struggles with his release point.

Ceiling – Elite Closer (if he finds even average contol)

Floor – Never sees success in the Majors and stays in the Minors

Expectation – Shows some K potential but ultimately bounces between AAA and the Majors as bullpen depth. 

Risk – Medium

ETA – 2019

20. Frank Schwindel 1B

Age – 26

HT/WT – 6’1″ 205 lb

Handedness – R/R

Level – AAA

Alex’s Take –

Schwindel just hits. He hits for power and contact. Almost never strikes out, almost never walks (though he made strides last year) and he doesn’t really play defense. But he hits. And he’s the only MLB ready bat with power/hit upside in the system. Should get plenty of looks this year and while he’s likely a quad-A guy, I could see a high average and 20 home runs in the near future as well.

Brenden’s Take –

Schwindel was drafted in the 18th round of the 2013 draft. He is listed at 6’1″ and 205 lbs. He’s a guy that just seems to keep hitting with his pull heavy approach and refusal to take a walk. He doesn’t strike out a ton either, only a 12.8% K% last year and is hitting with power with a .220 ISO. I’m having a hard time even calling him a prospect because he’s 26 years old. His hitting profile doesn’t look like one that will work in the majors but he keeps hitting and should get his chance next season.

Ceiling – .274/.324/.487 20 HR

Floor – AAAA Player

Expectation – AAAA Player

Risk – Low

ETA – 2019

Honorable Mentions

Blake Perkins OF

Athletic, defense first outfielder. Glove says CF but the bat says 4th outfielder.

Richard Lovelady LHP

Fastball/Slider RP with funky delivery. Floor is a lefty specialist and ceiling is high leverage rp, likely set up.

Heribert Garcia RHP

Gaudy numbers in DSL rookie league. No video that can be found though. One to keep an eye on for when he comes stateside and more info is available.

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