2023 Kansas City Royals Top 10 Prospects Chat

Bill Mitchell chatted about the Royals system today. You can read the transcript here.

Bill Mitchell: Welcome to the annual Royals prospect chat. It was a year of significant changes in the Royals system, as 10 players from last year’s Top 30 earned enough big league time to no longer qualify for this year’s list, and multiple trade deadline deals brought in some intriguing new players. The organization also has new leadership both in the front office and on the field, so 2023 looks to be a very interesting year ahead.


Scott (Boston):

     What happened to Will Klein this season?

Bill Mitchell: Scott, thanks for asking about Klein, one of the more interesting arms in the system. Klein was projected last year to be a fast mover through the system thanks to the upper 90s velocity and electric stuff. He started spring training strong before going down with a shin injury that put him on the sidelines for the early part of the season. When he got back on the mound, perhaps coming back too soon, the injury kept him from using his back legs and forced him to shorten his stride. Of course, that threw off his timing and body control. He was finally healthy late in the season and finished strong. With a fastball that plays up in the zone and an above-average curveball, it’s back of the bullpen stuff when he commands his pitches, and improving the command and control will be a key performance indicator in 2023.

Bill (Kansas):

     Nate Eaton has some pretty incredible tools, and he looked pretty good in his MLB debut. Where do you see him fitting in long term?

Bill Mitchell: Bill, regarding Eaton, he is likely to have a nice major league career as a solid utility player capable of playing multiple infield and outfield positions. It’s more of a high floor than a high ceiling type of player. Add in the plus makeup and he resembles where Whit Merrifield was early in his career. I’m not saying he’s going to be another Merrifield, but he can be a valuable Swiss army knife type who can contribute in multiple ways.

Ken (Lakewood CA):

     Kind of disappointed that Tyler Gentry doesn’t rank higher in your evaluation of him as a KC prospect. What holds him back and what needs to improve for him to become a quality major league OF? Thanks.

Bill Mitchell: Ken, Gentry is now ranked 7th in the organization after not being on the Top 30 at all last year, so I believe the industry as a whole is pretty high on him. There are no plus tools but he’s solid across the board. He’ll be 24 by the time spring training rolls around, so he needs to carry his success from 2022 into his likely Triple-A assignment to prove that he wasn’t just taking advantage of younger, less experienced pitching.

Scott (Boston):

     What does Beck Way need to do to continue to start? Or is he destined for the pen?

Bill Mitchell: The keys for Way, who was acquired from the Yankees organization in the Andrew Benintendi trade, will be to get more separation on his changeup from the fastball and using the pitch more often, as well as improving the command of all three of his pitches. Talent evaluators believe that Way is probably destined for the bullpen where he can concentrate on his above-average fastball and slider, but the Royals will continue to develop him as a starter. You can read more about Way and other prospects in the Royals Top 30 when you receive your invaluable Prospect Handbook.

Noah (LA):

     Besides stay healthy, what does Asa Lacy need to do to take steps forward?

Bill Mitchell: Noah, it was another difficult year for Lacy. I’ve remained high on his potential, but 2023 is going to be a key year for him. The back issues that bothered Lacy all season affected his delivery and landing, resulting in extraordinarily high walk totals. The fastball and slider are still plus pitches or better when he’s right, but we just haven’t seen enough of those good times since he joined the Royals organization. Opinions outside the organization believe that he needs to get back to what he was throwing at Texas A&M and simplify his mechanics. Lacy will be just one of many projects in the spring as the Royals revamp their pitching development structure.

Bob Sacamano (Downtown):

     I thought Darryl Collins had a chance a the top 10… if he keeps progressing where do you see him landing this year? Do you like his future?

Bill Mitchell: Bob (nice Seinfeld reference, BTW), Collins is outside the Royals top 30. He’s got bat-to-ball skills and is a good contact hitter, but the power has not yet emerged. He’s likely going to be limited to left field, so getting more power from his swing will be essential. Until then, he’s an interesting one to follow as a 21-year-old with a solid baseball background but not a top 30 guy.

Dave (Grayson, ga):

     What did the team think of CJ Alexander and Andrew Hoffman after the trade from the Braves? Looks like Hoffman had a rough time in AA

Bill Mitchell: Dave, let’s talk about Andrew Hoffman. He was an unheralded 12th-round pick by the Braves in 2021, and one of three players acquired by the Royals in exchange for a 2022 Compensation Round A draft pick. He commands both two-seam and four-seam fastballs to both sides of the plate, with the gem of his arsenal being a plus slider with lots of horizontal movement that he used frequently this past season. Yes, he struggled in his 9 starts at Double-A after joining the Royals, but it was a promotion from his High-A assignment with the Braves and he was coming into a new organization so I wouldn’t read too much into his numbers at Northwest Arkansas. He’s in the Royals top 20 as you will see when the Prospect Handbook comes out. As for Alexander, he’s already 26 and is more organizational depth at this point.

Alex (NY):

     How do rankings come to fruition? Is it one persons rankings or a consensus of many?

Bill Mitchell: Alex, that’s a good question and one that I’m sure our editor JJ Cooper has written about in the past. As for my process, which is consistent with what other BA writers follow, I talk with multiple sources inside the organization to start getting an idea where individual players should rank and then get multiple opinions from scouts and coaches both inside and outside the organization. After I submit my proposed list to our editors, we talk about how we want to juggle based on the collective knowledge of our experts. In some ways, it’s like putting together a Rubik’s Cube, but at the end we have our best estimate of how everyone in the system should fit in.

Nic (AZ):

     Have you heard anything about Junior Marin? Young player with some solid tools but not much has been said about his standing in the org. Thanks, Bill!

Bill Mitchell: Nic, Junior Marin is not yet in the conversation as a ranked prospect in the system, but he’s an interesting one to follow. The kid is huge at 240 pounds at the age of 18. He destroyed Dominican Summer League pitching in 2021 before coming to the Arizona League in 2022. His big raw power didn’t translate this past season as he didn’t homer in 103 plate appearances in Arizona while striking out 30 percent of the time. At that size it’s questionable where he’s going to play on the field. He’s obviously going to need to hit and keep his body in condition. Right now I’m not seeing him as a significant prospect but will keep him on the watch list.

Warren (New London):

     Do you think Tyler Tolbert has any other route to the major leagues besides pinch running/defensive replacement?

Bill Mitchell: Warren, thanks for the question on Tolbert. I love watching him play and still see some potential with the bat. He ranks as the fastest baserunner in the system, and check out his stolen base totals. He was 60 for 60 in 2022 and has stolen 143 bases in 146 attempts in his pro career so far. That’s phenomenal. Is he the next Terrance Gore? Perhaps, but maybe with a little more potential at the plate to go with the ability to play both infield and outfield. He’s had good walk rates every year so if he cuts down on the swing-and-miss there might be a bigger role ahead for Tolbert. Maybe a late bloomer? Stay tuned in to this one.

Bill Mitchell: I’m out of time for today. Thanks to all who participated in the Royals prospect chat. There will be a lot of changes in the Royals player development environment, so it will be interesting to see the results in 2023. Be sure to order your Prospect Handbook soon if you haven’t already done so. Teddy Cahill will be in the chat seat tomorrow to answer your questions on the Guardians organization. Happy Holidays to all!

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