Kansas City Royals 2024 International Review


The 2024 Royals class could end up being one of their best in recent years. They signed one of the premier players in the class with their top bonus, added a mix of promising position players at positions all over the field and have a bucket of pitchers who either have good projection indicators or have already started to see stuff gains this year. 

Top Of The Class

At one point it looked like the Padres were going to sign Cuban shortstop Yandel Ricardo, but after they lost $1 million in bonus pool space for signing free agent Xander Bogaerts, the Padres couldn’t sign both Ricardo and Dominican shortstop Leodalis De Vries. It worked out for Ricardo, who signed for $2,397,500 with the Royals. Ricardo is 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, combining good size, actions, tools and well-rounded skills as the top Cuban signing this year and one of the high-end prospects overall for 2024.

His swing is quick, direct and efficient from both sides of the plate, staying behind the ball well to use the whole field. He’s a little more advanced from the right side but with good contact skills both ways. It’s a mature offensive approach for his age with flashes of over-the-fence power in BP and the projection to grow into at least average power. Ricardo isn’t a lock for shortstop, but he has a chance to stick there. He’s an average runner who is more smooth than he is explosive in the field, playing under control with a good internal clock. Depending on his physical development, Ricardo could outgrow the position and play either third or second base with an arm that has improved to become a plus tool. He’s also a leader on the field who teammates are drawn to follow.

While Ricardo had more consensus as a top player for 2024, that wasn’t the case with Jhonayker Ugarte, a shortstop from Venezuela who trained in the Dominican Republic and got $1.4 million. Earlier in the scouting process, there were scouts who liked Ugarte for his defensive skills at shortstop and solid swing, but his profile has changed as he has grown three or four inches since then and improved his offensive game. Now he’s 6-foot-2, 180 pounds with a lot more strength, taking a simple lower half move to the ball and keeping his hands quiet and compact in his righthanded swing.

Ugarte has a mix of bat speed and strength that allows him to drive the ball with power in batting practice, though in games it’s a more contact-oriented approach geared toward hitting line drives and using the opposite field, with bigger game power that could come as he continues to fill out and learn which pitches to pull for damage. Ugarte has the hands, actions and an above-average arm for the left side of the infield, though as he’s gotten bigger, there’s a greater chance now that he might outgrow shortstop and shift to third base as he moves up. 

Names To Know

Darison Garcia, SS, Dominican Republic: Garcia’s game skills stand out above his raw tools. He’s 5-foot-11, 165 pounds at 17, signed for $797,500 and is a savvy, instinctive player. Garcia is a switch-hitter who is more advanced from the left side, putting the ball in play at a high clip with a line-drive approach and mostly gap power. He has started to occasionally drive balls out to his pull side, but his offensive value will probably come more from his ability to get on base. He’s a solid-average runner with an average arm who should develop at shortstop but could play all over the infield, where he’s fundamentally sound, has a good internal clock and a knack for being in the right place at the right time. 

Jose Cerice, 3B, Cuba: When Cerice was in his final season playing in Cuba’s 18U national league, he finished fourth in OPS and second in batting average, hitting .407/.510/.568 in 98 plate appearances. He left for the Dominican Republic and signed with the Royals for $697,500. Now 19, Cerice signed because of his righthanded hitting ability and should hit well right away against younger competition in the DSL.

He’s 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, makes frequent contact and shows a good sense of the strike zone. He could have average raw power, though in games it’s a hit-first approach with more home runs that could show up once he understands which pitches to attack for pull power. Cerice is a below-average runner and an offensive-minded player whose range should be adequate for third base with an above-average arm. 

Sandy Luciano, OF, Dominican Republic: The Royals signed Luciano for $257,500. He’s 6 feet, 195 pounds, a strong frame for 17 with a short swing from both sides of the plate that has some strength behind it for an intriguing offensive-minded profile with his speed and defense best suited for an outfield corner.

Anthony Longo, C, Venezuela: Longo has a good starter’s kit to build for a 17-year-old catcher. Signed for $227,500, he’s 6 feet, 160 pounds with the ability to command the game behind the plate and hit well in games. He performed well against live pitching when he was in Venezuela, showing a solid eye for the strike zone with a short righthanded swing and good bat-to-ball skills. He still has a slender build that’s physically behind his peers, so getting stronger will be crucial for him to grow into more extra-base impact. He’s an athletic defender with a tick above-average arm and a short, efficient transfer. 

Omar Mejia, SS, Dominican Republic: Mejia signed at 17 for $157,500 after drawing attention for his defensive skills. He has secure hands at shortstop, where he has the potential to be an above-average defender. His best tool is a plus-plus arm, to the point where he would be an intriguing conversion candidate between his present arm strength, athleticism and room to still fill out. As an amateur, Mejia’s lack of strength held back his offensive development as a righthanded hitter, but since signing he has added at least 20 pounds to where he’s now 6-foot-3, 180 pounds. 

Juan Rivera, RHP, Dominican Republic: Rivera was mostly pitching in the mid-to-upper 80s when teams were scouting him, then by the end of 2023 he was up to 91 mph before he signed for $117,500. His stuff has taken another jump since then, sitting in the low-90s and touching 94 mph. He’s a wiry 6-foot-1, 165 pounds with long limbs and room to project him to continue throwing harder. Rivera has flashed feel for his secondary stuff as well, including a changeup that’s advanced for a 17-year-old and is ahead of his slider. 

Sleeper Watch

The Royals picked up what has turned into a power arm with 19-year-old Dominican righthander Sthiven Benitez for $17,500. He’s 6-foot-3, 185 pounds and signed with a fastball up to 92 mph, but since then his velocity has taken off to reach 97 mph. Benitez was previously eligible to sign so he’s older than a lot of the other 2024 signings, but there’s still more room to fill out and potentially add another tick of velocity. His fastball is his best pitch, with a slider and a changeup rounding his repertoire.

Benitez is one of several promising, lower-dollar pitchers to watch this year in the DSL. Dominican righthander Jose Cruz, who also got $17,500, is 6-foot-4, 200 pounds at 19 with a fastball that was touching 91 mph upon signing but has since been up to 95 mph. It’s a large frame that he controls well in a sound delivery that should lend itself to throwing strikes. He has shown feel for a slider with good lateral break across the zone as well. 

Venezuelan lefthander Geremy Tovar ($17,500) has a compact, efficient delivery with good feel for pitching at 18. He’s 6-foot-2, 180 pounds and moves well on the mound with a fastball that has touched 92 mph and feel to spin a breaking ball.

Manuel Colon is a 17-year-old Dominican righthander who got $67,500. He’s a slender 5-foot-11, 150 pounds but with an extremely quick arm and a mechanically sound, easy operation, helping him throw strikes at a high clip. He has touched 91 mph and should have more velocity on the way, with feel to manipulate both his slider and changeup.

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