International Reviews: Kansas City Royals
Total 2017 signings: 35.
Top 2017-18 signing: Several at $300,000.
The Royals were in their second and final year in the penalty box, so they couldn’t sign anyone for more than $300,000. They handed out several six-figure deals last year, including one to Dominican outfielder Bryan Asencio, who signed for $300,000 in July. Asencio, 17, is a potential power bat with a lean, projectable frame (6-foot-2, 185 pounds), good strength and bat speed from the right side of the plate. Asencio is an average runner who is likely a corner outfielder.
The Royals signed 17-year-old Dominican lefthander Luis Cepeda for $300,000 in July. He’s a pitchability lefty who stood out for his advanced strike-throwing ability for his age. At 6-foot-2, 160 pounds, Cepeda has a thin frame and will have to be managed carefully. When Cepeda signed, he threw his fastball in the mid-80s, and by the fall had jumped to 85-88 mph with more room to add velocity once he gets stronger. He has shown some early signs of being able to manipulate his curveball and changeup as well.
Herard Gonzalez, a 16-year-old switch-hitter from the Dominican Republic, signed for $300,000 in July. Gonzalez’s best tools are his bat and his speed. At 5-foot-11, 165 pounds, Gonzalez is a contact-oriented hitter with a line-drive approach and occasional doubles pop. Gonzalez is a plus runner and an offensive-minded player who has a chance to stick at shortstop, though some scouts think he will eventually fit better at second base.
Dominican outfielder Neyfi Marinez signed with the Royals for $300,000 in July. Marinez, 17, is 6-foot-1, 175 pounds and stood out to the Royals for his hitting ability from the left side of the plate with gap power. He’s a corner outfielder with an average arm whose offensive skills are ahead of his defensive instincts.
Another Dominican outfielder, Olivber Moreno, signed for $300,000 in July. Moreno, 16, is a high-energy center fielder with a lot of physical upside in his 6-foot-1, 185-pound frame. He’s a strong player who has shown good power from the right side of the plate, with average speed and a strong arm in the outfield.
Enrique Valdez is a 16-year-old Dominican shortstop the Royals signed for $300,000 in July. Valdez projects to stick at shortstop, with slightly above-average speed and arm strength along with a knack for making the flashy play at times. He’s 6 feet, 160 pounds with good bat-to-ball skills from the left side, though without much power right now.
Venezuelan infielder Frank Herrera was one of the more advanced players the Royals signed last year. As an amateur, Herrera trained as a shortstop before signing with the Royals in July for $250,000. The Royals have him playing third base now, but he’s also getting work behind the plate by catching bullpens and working at other drills. While Herrera will probably spend most, if not all, of his 2018 season at third base, he has attributes to catch. He’s 6-foot-1, 170 pounds with a plus arm, soft hands and a high baseball IQ for a 17-year-old. Herrera is a switch-hitter with a contact-oriented, line-drive approach.
The Royals signed their first Taiwanese amateur player last year in August, when they gave 19-year-old lefthander Chih-Ting Wang (6-foot-1, 230 pounds) a $240,000 bonus. In September, Wang pitched in the U-18 World Cup in Thunder Bay, Ontario, where he showed a fastball that reached 89 mph and had trouble with his control at times but showed the Royals solid feel to pitch from the left side.
Dominican outfielder Xionel Garcia signed with the Royals for $200,000 in July. Garcia is a 17-year-old with a projectable build (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) and good tools, but his baseball skills are further behind his peers. When Garcia connects, the ball jumps off his bat well from the right side, but he will need time to develop his hitting ability and overall game awareness. He throws well and projects as a corner outfielder.
The Royals signed 17-year-old shortstop Francis Grullon for $200,000 out of the Dominican Republic in July. Grullon had a lot of game experience growing up in the Dominican Republic and it shows on the field in his instincts and high-level baseball acumen for his age. Grullon is 5-foot-10, 170 pounds and stands out more for his game skills than his raw tools, with average speed and a contact-oriented swing from both sides of the plate. Second base is likely his best defensive fit.
Diego Hernandez is a 17-year-old center fielder the Royals signed for $200,000 out of the Dominican Republic in July. Hernandez is a skinny lefty (6 feet, 150 pounds) who should stick in center field, with above-average speed and good outfield instincts. Hernandez has shown good contact skills but getting stronger will be important for him to be able to drive the ball with more authority when he does connect.
The Royals signed Jesus Reyes, a 17-year-old Venezuelan infielder who has split time between shortstop and second base, for $170,000 in July. Reyes isn’t flashy, but he’s a smart, fundamentally sound player for his age. He’s 5-foot-10, 160 pounds with average speed, arm strength and secure hands at shortstop, where he makes the routine plays consistently. Reyes is an instinctive player with good bat-to-ball skills and an all-fields approach from the right side of the plate, though without much power right now.
Angel Zerpa Is Hard To Ignore
The Royals added the 21-year-old lefthander to the 40-man roster so as not to risk losing another promising young arm in the Rule 5 draft.
One sleeper in the class to keep an eye on is 19-year-old Anderson Paulino, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound Dominican righthander the Royals signed for $30,000 in August. When Paulino signed, he was throwing mostly in the upper 80s, but after signing and working on his delivery, he was reaching 95 mph this winter, along with a slider that breaks like a hard slurve.
The Royals also signed 16-year-old Venezuelan center fielder Gary Camarillo for $85,000 in September. Camarillo is 6-foot-2, 165 pounds and has shown a promising tool set, with plus speed and at at least an average arm in center, with hard contact from the right side of the plate when he squares it up.