2017 Kansas City Royals Top 10 Prospects

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1. Josh Staumont, rhp
2. Matt Strahm, lhp
3. Hunter Dozier, 3b/of
4. Eric Skoglund, lhp
5. A.J. Puckett, rhp
6. Scott Blewett, rhp
7. Chase Vallot, c
8. Ryan O’Hearn, 1b
9. Jorge Bonifacio, of
10. Kyle Zimmer, rhp

The bill for the Royals' back-to-back World Series appearances and its 2015 title started to come due in 2016, but the balloon payment is looming in 2018.

Understandably, the defending World Series champs tried to keep the team together to attempt a repeat. Free agent Alex Gordon was re-signed, ensuring the Royals began 2016 with largely the same lineup that won it all in 2015.

The dominant bullpen was largely kept intact (closer Greg Holland was allowed to reach free agency as he rehabbed from Tommy John surgery) while free agent righthander Ian Kennedy was signed to try to fill some of the innings lost when trade pickup Johnny Cueto signed with the Giants as a free agent.

It didn't work. A knee injury cost Mike Moustakas all but a month of the season. Lorenzo Cain missed time. Gordon hit a baffling .220/.312/.380 as the offense cratered.

And the Royals' bullpen, the most-feared in baseball in 2014-15, became merely mildly intimidating in 2016 thanks to an injury to Wade Davis and the struggles of free agent signee Joakim Soria.

The emergency of Duffy as an ace and a still-impressive defense allowed the Royals to hang around the periphery of the wild-card race until the start of September. But when the bullpen blew two saves as part of four one-run losses in a five-game span, Kansas City's season was effectively over.

The result was an 81-81 record. Now Kansas City has one more shot at the postseason before this group largely heads elsewhere.

Six members of the lineup—Cain, Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Kendrys Morales, Jarrod Dyson and Alcides Escobar—will be free agents after 2017. So will lefthander Danny Duffy and righthander Wade Davis. Even a large-revenue team would have trouble keeping that group together. For the Royals, it will be tough enough to find the payroll room to keep them this year when the majority head to arbitration.

So Kansas City heads into 2017 knowing this is the final bid for postseason glory before a likely lengthy rebuilding process. It's a worthwhile tradeoff to trade off future success to win a World Series, and that's exactly what the Royals did. Lefthanders Sean Manaea, Cody Reed and Brandon Finnegan would likely all fit in the Kansas City rotation in 2017 as young, hard-throwing and cost-controlled starting pitchers. All three were traded away to help fuel the successful 2015 World Series run.

Kansas City lost its first-round pick in the 2016 draft to sign Kennedy as a free agent, giving the club the second smallest draft pool in 2016. The farm system is the thinnest it has been since before Dayton Moore's rebuilding process hit full speed in 2009-10.

If Kansas City falls out of the playoff race by the July trade deadline, it could dominate the trade market with a slew of desirable talents that could speed up the rebuilding process.

1. Josh Staumont, rhp | bba_video_icon_red

Fastball: 70.
Curveball: 60.
Changeup: 40.
Control: 45.
Based on 20-80 scouting scale—where 50 represents major league average—and future projection rather than present tools.

Born: Dec. 21, 1993. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 200. Drafted: Azusa Pacific (Calif), 2015 (2nd round). Signed by: Colin Gonzalez.

Background: A little-noticed high school arm who grew from being a short and thick underclassman to a tall-and-lean senior at La Habra (Calif.) High, Staumont earned a spot in NAIA Biola (Calif.) University's rotation as a freshman (he worked 10.2 innings in one marathon outing), but he transferred to Division II Azusa (Calif.) Pacific to follow coach John Verhoeven. It says something about Staumont's stuff that he posted a 3.67 ERA in his junior season at Azusa Pacific despite walking more than seven batters per nine innings. It says even more that he was a second-round pick despite his wildness. And in his first full season as a pro, Staumont led the minors with 104 walks, but he also ranked second in strikeouts (167) and first among full-season starters with 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings. He went 2-0, 1.57 with 53 strikeouts and 12 walks in his final 40 innings between the regular season and playoffs and was effective as a starter in the Arizona Fall League.

Scouting Report: Staumont creates extremely easy top-of-the-scale velocity. He's touched triple digits with a delivery that looks almost effortless. Staumont's right arm has allowed him to pitch successfully at a level beyond his current understanding of the craft. This year his understanding of pitching started to catch up to his stuff, although it still has a ways to go before he's consistently setting up hitters. His plus-plus four-seamer sits anywhere from 92-98 as a starter and has touched 102 when working out of the bullpen. It is a rather true pitch without much life. The only thing keeping it from an 80 grade is its lack of life. He also throws a two-seamer with sink, but the Royals have had him focus on commanding the four-seamer first before letting him rely on the harder-to-control two-seamer. His 11-to-5 curveball isn't consistent but is a plus pitch at some point in most every outing and will flash plus-plus at its best. His changeup is below-average and he uses it more at this point because he knows he needs to rather than because it's a reliable weapon. Staumont's control improved as the season progressed in part because of a mechanical tweak. He now brings his hands above his head in his windup instead of the simple hand break he used earlier. It improved his timing. He is focused on using his legs in his delivery more instead of the "tall and fall" delivery he used in college. He is somewhat stiff, which limits his below-average control and command and his ability to diagnose and correct delivery issues quickly as they crop up. Staumont has work to do on holding runners. He was easy to steal on and four of his five errors in 2016 came on errant pickoff throws.

The Future: Staumont's rapid improvement has raised Royals' hopes that he could stay in the rotation, although his feel doesn't always match his stuff. Staumont's ceiling is that of a front-end starter if he can improve his control with a fallback option of serving as an impact reliever. His strong finish in Double-A in 2016 has him positioned to challenge for a spot in Triple-A to start 2017.

Wilmington (HiA) 2 10 5.05 18 15 0 73 62 3 67 94 .230
NW Arkansas (AA) 2 1 3.04 11 11 0 50 42 2 37 73 .232

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