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Kansas City Royals Top 10 Prospects Chat

Frank (Indianapolis IN): How many of these guys (if any) are likely to make the BA 100? J.J. Cooper: Hey everyone, thanks for coming out. If you're looking at the Royals Top 10, I think you can make a case for the top 3 prospects possibly cracking the Top 100. Josh Staumont is a very high risk, very high reward prospect. Matt Strahm is a little lower ceilinged, but also high floor prospect who has already had some big league success. And Hunter Dozier is a prospect who had a great season in 2016, but he still carries some skepticism around the game because everyone remembers his 2015 season.

Paul (St Louis): Do you predict Staumont will be a SP in the coming years? J.J. Cooper: There's a decent chance. For all his wildness, there's not really any big flashing warning signs that say he can't start. He's big. He's strong. He gets to his velo easy and he has secondary offerings. I even have had scouts suggest his control problems fit better as a starter (where he can work around his issues over 5-6 innings rather than in a one inning stint).

Grant (NYC): Increasing pessimism for Ashe Russell, or still cause for hope? J.J. Cooper: Still hope, but 2016 was a disaster and there's no sure bet that in 2017 he'll put 2016's problems behind him. Even in instructs he wasn't throwing in games.

John (New Jersey): I'm sure you get a million questions about Kyle Zimmer, but do you still think he can be a guy who can go out and pitch every five days? Or would a move to the bullpen perhaps be beneficial? J.J. Cooper: Are you a glass half-full or half-empty guy? Half-full? The thoracic syndrome issue is one that could have had long-running issues and so he could be fine in 2017 and able to take the ball every five days. The stuff is still excellent. Half-empty? Zimmer hasn't been able to make a start every five days at any point in his pro career and he's only been able to hold up as a starter once in his life--as a junior at San Francisco. John Smoltz said that he didn't think relieving was any easier for his health than starting. So I don't know that there's any guarantee that asking Zimmer to prep to get up and down on no notice would be easier for him than making a start every fifth day.

John (New Jersey): Does Seuly Matias have the highest upside in this system and could he ultimately be the player the Royals thought Bubba Starling was? J.J. Cooper: He's a right fielder not a center fielder long term, but he does have many of the tools that Starling was hoped to have. Starling's value was more going to be derived from defense than Matias will have, but Matias also has a more advanced hit tool than Starling had at a similar point in his development.

John (New Jersey): I am intrigued by Eric Skoglund's ranking. Just a safe bet to be in a major league rotation as a southpaw? Or is there some upside there? J.J. Cooper: A safe bet to be in the MLB rotation is a very valuable piece. That is upside. No, I don't think Skoglund will be a future 1-2 or 3, but he is not far away from being a future No. 4 or 5 and that's valuable.

Norm Chouinard (Connecticut): Hi JJ, Did Esteury Ruiz get any consideration for the top 10? I know Ben had nice things to say about him last summer. J.J. Cooper: No. It's really, really hard for a player whose only playing experience is in the DSL to crack a top 10. Ruiz had a great debut, but he's more looking to crack the top 30 than pushing for a spot in the top 10.

Patrick Guttin (Sandpoint, Idaho): So pleasing to see Matt Strahm finally ranked so high where he has belonged.....prognosis? Starter, closer? J.J. Cooper: Maybe a reliever in the short term but long term he's a starter to me. It may be a Danny Duffy type conversion but by 2018, I would expect they will need him to start.

Noel (Portland): Is this one of the weaker farm systems in the game? J.J. Cooper: Yes. It's a bottom-third farm system. There are definitely worse farm systems out there (Angels and Marlins to name two obvious ones), but this is a thin system. Here's why: 1) they traded away Sean Manaea, Cody Reed and Brandon Finnegan. 2) The high school arms they drafted in 2014 and 2015 largely haven't panned out so far. 3) They are drafting much later in the draft now, so it's harder to land impact talents. As the overview states, this team is headed towards a big crash, but that's both understandable and defensible. When you are celebrating a World Series win, the rest is gravy.

Tom (Kansas): Thanks for doing this chat! I know he isn't on the prospect list anymore but where do you see raul mondesi fitting in for 2017? 2b? Outfield? Bench player? J.J. Cooper: I think he ends up as the Royals 2b, but maybe not on Opening Day. Mondesi needs time to develop his plate discipline. He's never developed it, but he's also been pushed so fast at every point in his career. He's not a bench player in the big leagues. It makes way more sense to give him everyday ABs in Omaha rather than sit him on the big league bench.

paul (KC): Is Mondesi the SS of the future or is the bat going to be a little light for him to stick as an everyday guy? J.J. Cooper: If the bat is light, it will be a massive disappointment for the Royals and it will be a very bad sign for the next 3-5 years in Kansas City. Mondesi has way more power potential than your average shortstop prospect. He has above-average power with plus-plus speed. But he needs to figure out which pitches he can drive and which ones are going to leave him waving at an unhittable slider.

Grant (NYC): Miguel Almonte - what's his projection? Likely a reliever at this point? J.J. Cooper: Yes. The stuff is still largely the same stuff but he's regressed and at this point if he ends up being a useful reliever that's a positive sign.

BBJ (Gardner, Kansas): Whats up with Bubba Starling. Will he ever make it up to the Majors. J.J. Cooper: Make the majors? Still possible. He can run, he's a good defender, he runs the bases well. It took Brett Eibner til he was 27 to put it together. Paulo Orlando was closer to 30 before he made the majors. But at this point, it's hard to see his hit tool ever being good enough to let him be an impact big leaguer as the Royals had hoped.

norman (greenville,sc): Wil Strahm get starts or holds in 2017. Will he be on the opening day roster ? J.J. Cooper: Generally when a pitcher is as good as Strahm was in the bullpen late in 2016, it's hard to pry him away from the big league club in spring training the next year (see Brandon Finnegan as a previous example). Kansas City looks to be going for it in 2017, so it makes sense to let Strahm dominate in the bullpen. But in the long run he fits better as a starter.

Norm Chouinard (Connecticut): Is Staumont Yordano Ventura with slightly less command? J.J. Cooper: Similar top-end velocity but he is much bigger than Ventura. Physically they are very different but stuff/control wise there are some similarities.

a.j. (las vegas): Significant Wilson Ramos injury aside, are there any of the Royals 2017 free agents that would accept the qualifying offer or is it possible the Royals will have about 10 picks in the top 50 in the 2018 draft? J.J. Cooper: I would think not. The Royals could have a ton of picks in 2018 when they are working on a significant rebuild. Of course, if the Royals' are very disappointing in the first half of the season some or many of those players could be trade bait as while.

wild pitch (backstop): what is your best estimate of whether Staumont's recent improvement is SSS or improved consistency in his mechanics? Guy can throw. J.J. Cooper: There is some legit improvement. It's not just SSS because he had some clear timing issues that were improved by using a different windup.

John (KC): How do you rate the development of Marten Gasparini so far? In 2016, as the games played increased, the average went down and the K's went up. Do you think he'll improve, and might he shift to the outfield? J.J. Cooper: It was a bad year. The defense has a lot of work to do and the bat was very overmatched by the Sally League. I do think there are some reasons for that--he's an Italian shortstop, so yeah, understandably there are some reasons he would be behind. So far he's still a shortstop, but I'd say it's better than 50-50 that eventually he will move.

Saint (NE MPLS): Any lesser known names from the draft end up with better scouting reports after scouts got to see them professionally? J.J. Cooper: I'll be talking about Khalil Lee more in a minute on a different question but Nicky Lopez is one that jumps out as exceeding his draft spot. Kort Peterson was a nice find who looked much better than he looked in college.

Noel (Portland): Staumont sound like Kyle Crick to me. Or am I selling him short? J.J. Cooper: That's selling him short. He's already had more upper level success than Crick has had and he did it in his first full pro season. There's tons of risk with a pitcher of Staumont's profile, but he has shown positive signs that he's putting it together with his control.

Greg (Overland Park, KS): How long before Meibrys Viloria cracks the Top 10? J.J. Cooper: Viloria had a great year, obviously. If he does the same thing in full season ball next year he'll crack the Top 10. He needs to continue to improve defensively.

Daniel (Kansas City): If you see Mondesi as the future everyday second baseman, who in the system do you see as the future everyday shortstop and why? J.J. Cooper: Long term Mondesi is the shortstop, but that doesn't happen until Escobar leaves as a free agent. With our 2020 lineup we don't assume free agents are leaving. Mondesi is the answer at shortstop for 2018 as Kansas City has more options at second base (Christian Colon, Whit Merrifield and Corey Toups) than shortstop where it's Mondesi or Nicky Lopez if you're looking at prospects who could be ready by 2018-2019.

John (New Jersey): Garrett Davila had a nice showing with Burlington a season ago. What kind of upside does he have? J.J. Cooper: He's a pitcher who really knows how to pitch with fringy stuff. Those kind of guys need to prove it at every level. Davilla proved it this year. He'll work to do the same in 2017.

Ryne (Waco, TX): Has the overall outlook on Marten Gasparini changed, or is he still viewed as a future above-average regular? He got a grade-55E in the handbook the last two seasons IIRC, just wondering if we can expect that to change this year. Thanks! J.J. Cooper: Haven't finalized a BA Grade for him for 2017 yet, but as a player fails to turn tools into skills, the upside does start to decline. When Gasparini signed, he had a very, very wide range of potential long-term outcomes. He still has a wide range of outcomes, but we do now know that he's not a prodigy with advanced hitting skills, so the "fast track to the big leagues/extreme athlete" outcome has been closed as no longer possible. That lowers his upside.

Brian (FL): What are your thoughts on Bubba Starling? Should the Royals continue to hope the bat improves or is it time to move on? J.J. Cooper: No reason to move on. He's only used one major league option, so the Royals will send him back to Triple-A and hope that he forgets 2016 ever happened. No reason to not be patient, but hitting is a struggle for Starling. Everything else is really impressive, but if you can't hit, nothing else really matters.

Lloyd (Lakewood): An update on Foster Griffin please? J.J. Cooper: When the Royals drafted Griffin, the hope for them (and many other teams scouts had the same thoughts) was that his stuff would continue to get better, giving a chance to be a pitcher with feel and above-average stuff. The stuff hasn't gotten better. So now he's a pitchability guy with average stuff at best. That makes his path to the big leagues much tougher than it is for someone with better stuff. So far, it's been a struggle.

Royal Rupert (Arcadia, CA.): Can the Royals be in win mode for 2017 and still prepare to win for 2018 and beyond? Or will they be in rebuild mode after 2017? Thanks J.J. Cooper: The moves needed to win in 2017 will necessarily hurt the team's chances to win in 2018 and beyond. Want to win in 2017? Keep this team together, make some moves around the edges to fill holes and see if the team can make its third playoff appearance in four years. But if you want to win in 2019-2020 it would be better to trade away this massive wave of players who will be free agents at the end of the season, keeping only the potential free agents you can re-up to a long-term deal. It makes sense that the Royals will try to win in 2017, but they have the option to bail out at the midseason and make trades if the first three months of the 2017 go poorly.

David (New Mexico): Can you answer a question about former UM Lobo Chris DeVito? The man plays in only 61 games for Burlington, and in 261 AB's he had 50 Rbi. ...what do you think? J.J. Cooper: He had a solid season, but that was to be expected of a college draftee in the Appy League. The bat speed is the big question for DeVito. He has power, but can he catch up to premium velocity? We don't know the answer to that yet.

Sam (KC): With a lot of current players only around for another year, do we have a strong enough system to replace and sustain the winning or are we looking at a long rebuild again after this year? J.J. Cooper: There's a rebuild coming. The team that just won a World Series title was built by having one of the best farm systems in recent history. That was built through multiple top 5-10 draft picks plus a number of other draft picks who received first-round money as later-round picks. The Royals also did an outstanding job of signing and developing international amateurs as well. The next wave of prospects was used to help win the World Series in deadline deal trades (Cody Reed or Sean Manaea would lead this current Top 10 if they were still around and eligible). This success has led to a lot of later draft picks--Kansas City didn't have a first-round pick in 2016, so yes, the rebuild is going to take some time.

Nick (Omaha): I know he's not eligible, but how high up would Mondesi have ranked here? How highly would he still be regarded on a top 100 lists? J.J. Cooper: He would still be No. 1. Mondesi has always been a hard player to rank because we've never seen what he could do if he was left at a level long enough to dominate it. That's a knock as he's not been a dominant player at any stop of full season ball, but you still see the flashes of greatness and he could catch up to even big league pitchers if he just improves his plate discipline.

DR (East Coast): Khalil Lee generated some serious buzz in the AZL. What's the scoop on him? Does he profile as a legit corner OF? J.J. Cooper: He's legit. You want to see him do it again in full season ball as there were a wide range of viewpoints on him when he was in high school, but so far the Royals' belief in his bat has been borne out by the production. Yes, he has a chance to be an everyday regular.

Ryne (Waco, TX): Elier Hernandez... prospect or suspect at this point? He did well in 2015 and got promoted to High-A as a 20yo, but has done worse at the same level as a now 21 year-old in A+ ball... he's still young, I'm just wondering if we should still hold out hope for one of the top signings from the 2011 int'l class. J.J. Cooper: Suspect. I would not expect the Royals would need to protect him on the 40-man roster to keep him from being picked in the Rule 5 draft this offseason.

Michael Stern (Rochester NY): Was Khalil Lee considered near top 10 at all? What are you hearing about the young OF prospect? How far away is he and what is his ceiling? Thanks for the chat. J.J. Cooper: He was in the top 10 in one early iteration. He's not missing this list by much, but at the same time, that was going to be an aggressive ranking for a player who was picked after 102 other players in the most recent draft.

Jon (Georgia): Whats your take on the 10th round pick 2016- richard lovelady J.J. Cooper: He had a great debut and he has plenty of velo for a lefthander. On the radar more than a top prospect at this point, but he could prove himself as a prospect with a good 2017 when he'll reach full season ball.

Rule 5 Draft (1)

Podcast: Rule 5 Review

JJ Cooper and Geoff Pontes review the Rule 5 draft with the most unusual and interesting picks.

J.J. Cooper: Thanks everyone. Appreciate all the questions. It's been fun doing the Royals Top 10/30 for much of the past decade and talking with Royals fans about this group from prospects to big leaguers to World Series champs. K.C. has what looks to be one more shot before they flip back into rebuilding mode. It should be fun to see where the next 12 months takes this Royals team.

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