Kansas City Royals Midseason Top 10 Prospects
SEE ALSO: Midseason Top 10 Prospects
The Royals rebuilding effort went full throttle this year, with a bounty of extra draft picks resulting in a full rotation of college starting pitchers on day one of the 2018 draft, most notably the first round selections of top Florida righthanders Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar. The potential riches from this draft will help occupy the minds of Royals fans during a regular season in which the big league team is posting one of the worst records in the game, sitting at 27-68 entering the All-Star break. If there’s a bright side to the season, the performance of the 2018 team will guarantee the Royals one of the top picks in next year’s draft.
Last year’s top picks Nick Pratto and MJ Melendez both skipped a level to start 2018, moving from Rookie ball to low Class A Lexington. Outfielders Khalil Lee and Seuly Matias have both taken steps forward this year, with the former being promoted to Double-A on his 20th birthday and the latter slugging home runs at a stratospheric level.
It goes without saying that the Royals will be sellers at the trade deadline, in fact already starting the process by dealing closer Kelvin Herrera to Washington for three prospects and sending outfielder Jon Jay to Arizona. There aren’t a lot of trade-able commodities left on the roster, with third baseman Mike Moustakas, who returned to Kansas City on a one-year deal, the most likely to go. Whit Merrifield may be their most attractive trading chip because of his position versatility and team-friendly contract. Teams looking for rotation help could have interest in Danny Duffy, although the southpaw starter is in the midst of a down year and has more than three years remaining on a big contract.
1. Brady Singer, RHP
Not yet assigned
The Royals were pleased Florida’s Friday night ace Singer dropped to their first pick at No. 18 overall. After pitching deep into the College World Series, Singer waited until three days before the deadline to sign for $4.25 million, nearly a $1 million over slow. Singer posting a 21-8 record over the last two seasons in Florida’s rotation, and the Royals envision a starter with a durable body, competitive makeup and a strong will to win. He flashes two plus pitches delivered with a lower arm slot, with a fastball sitting in the low- to mid-90s along and a sharp slider. He didn’t use his changeup much in college, but it should eventually be at least an average pitch.
2. Khalil Lee, OF
Double-A Northwest Arkansas
Lee made it to Double-A by his 20th birthday in just his second full season. He made tremendous strides as a hitter this year, cutting down on strikeouts to go with his always solid plate discipline. The key factor was an ability to cut down on his swing with two strikes and instead being willing to take a single to the opposite field. That change as well as the larger ballparks of the Carolina League have suppressed his home run totals, but there’s still plenty of power waiting to emerge. Lee is also showing better aptitude on the bases, having been successful on 14 of 17 stolen base attempts at high Class Wilmington before his promotion.
3. Jackson Kowar, RHP
low Class A Lexington
Kansas City made it two Florida starters in a row in the first round when they followed the selection of Brady Singer at pick 18 by taking Gator rotation-mate Kowar at No. 33. He signed just before the deadline for a $2,147,500 bonus. With a tall, slender frame, Kowar should add velocity to his current low- to mid-90s fastball with clean arm action, complementing it with a plus slider. The first item for Kowar’s development will be to settle on which breaking ball to use, needing to improve the quality and consistency of either his slider or curveball.
4. Nicky Lopez, SS
Lopez continues to defy the ever-diminishing pool of doubters who don’t think the Creighton product is durable enough and strong enough to impact the baseball, reaching Triple-A in only his second full season. He immediately showed he wasn’t intimidated at that level, getting four hits in his first game with Omaha. Lopez a smart ballplayer who knows his swing, understands the strike zone and has good control of the barrel. On the field he’s always in position to make the plays and his average arm is good for either middle infield position.
5. MJ Melendez, C
low Class A Lexington
Like 2017 draft-mate Pratto, Melendez skipped a level moving right into full-season ball to start 2018. He’s shown impressive power at Lexington, with 12 home runs through the end of June. He’s already a solid defender but has been working with Royals catching coordinator J.C. Boscan to further refine his skills behind the plate. Melendez has a good aptitude at the plate and shows the ability to learn during at-bats.
6. Seuly Matias, OF
low Class A Lexington
Matias possesses a higher ceiling than any other position player in the Royals organization, but also carries a higher degree of risk. The native Dominican came into the season more relaxed and confident, and the results have been impressive as he leads the minor leagues with 26 home runs. He grades as a fringy to below-average hitter with a 37 percent strikeout rate, an unsustainable number. His plus raw power will play and his plus-plus arm makes him a prototypical right fielder and if can make enough contact.
7. Nick Pratto, 1B
low Class A Lexington
Drafted in the first round last year, He has not yet put up big numbers as a pro, raising questions by some observers whether as to whether his bat will play at first base. Royals officials project Pratto to be a solid-average to plus hitter in time with at least average game power, but it’s coming slowly. The biggest issue this year is his high number of strikeouts, but at 19 he’s young for the level and is working hard on necessary improvements. He has average range at first base and the hands work well there.
8. Daniel Lynch, LHP
low Class A Lexington
The Royals continued their run on college arms at the top of the 2018 draft, selecting Lynch one pick after Kowar. The Virginia product has average stuff across the board a four-pitch repertoire, with the stuff playing up because of his intelligence and above-average control. He drops to his backside in his delivery, but it’s not as noticeable because of his height. He projects as an effective back-of-the-rotation innings-burner.
9. Kris Bubic, LHP
Rookie-level Great Falls
Bubic thrived in the number Np. 2 role in his junior year at Stanford, posting an 8-1 record, 2.62 ERA behind Tristan Beck. The Royals made him their fourth pick on day one of the draft, taking the big-bodied southpaw in Compensation Round A and signing him for $1,597,500. Bubic’s money pitch is a changeup that flashes plus, along with an average low-90s fastball and an average or better curveball. He projects as a durable back-of-the-rotation starter.
10. Josh Staumont, RHP
Staumont has jumped between the rotation and the bullpen this season, continuing to tantalize with a plus fastball that jumps out of his hand, sitting 91-97 mph. He’s been more confident this year, attacking hitters and filling the zone better. His power curveball is a plus pitch when he commands it. Staumont’s stuff is too good to not give him every chance to succeed as a starting pitcher, but some observers still think he’ll eventually wind up being a power arm at the back of the Royals bullpen because his control remains poor.
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- OF Brewer Hicklen was behind in baseball skills when drafted in the seventh round in 2017 because of time spent playing college football, but he’s turning his tools and elite athleticism into an outstanding season, posting an .853 OPS at Lexington before earning a promotion to Wilmington.
- 3B/1B/OF Travis Jones dropped to the 29th round in 2017 despite a stellar college career at Texas, and he may be the steal of that draft for the Royals because of his position versatility, leadership qualities and just general "It” factor. He’s hit .291 with 22 stolen bases.
- OF Kort Peterson was more about plus raw tools than baseball skills when he joined the Royals organization out of UCLA in 2016, but it’s now all coming together for the 24-year-old outfielder. He’s relaxed on the field and has improved his smarts at the plate. Peterson was bumped up to Double-A after a solid first half of the season at high Class A Wilmington where he hit .292/.365/.498.
- C Chase Vallot’s swing-and-miss tendencies have consistently kept him from getting to his plus raw power, and that inability to make contact is magnified this year. He hit .101 at high Class A Wilmington with a 45 percent strikeout rate before getting hurt.
- LHP Foster Griffin had a strong second half of the 2017 season at Double-A, but a return to this level hasn’t been as successful. He is struggling to locate his pitches and the more experienced batters at that level are hitting .322 off him.
- OF Bubba Starling has struggled with injuries over the past couple of years, with an oblique injury limiting him to 11 games at Triple-A Omaha this year. Then, during a rehab assignment, he fell out of bed and dislocated his thumb, requiring surgery that will keep him out until at least late August.
- OF Michael Gigliotti played six games before having season-ending knee surgery.
- RHP Kyle Zimmer got shut down from pitching while working on an arm program in an attempt to get healthy.
- 1B/OF Hunter Dozier started the season with Triple-A Omaha before heading to Kansas City to fill in for the injured Lucas Duda at first base.
- RHP Brad Keller has turned into the Rule 5 acquisition of the year, becoming arguably the Royals best starting pitcher over the past month.
- LHP Tim Hill has been a frequently-used lefty reliever after making it to the big leagues at 28.
- LHP Eric Skoglund started nine games for the Royals before going on the 60-day DL with a sprained UCL.
- RHP Burch Smith was one of two Rule 5 picks retained on the 25-man roster and has been a regular setup reliever, fanning more than a batter an inning but also walking 4.5 batters per nine innings at the break.