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Midseason Prospect Update: Royals

The Midseason Top 10 Prospect lists are compiled from conversations with front office officials and scouts from all 30 teams. Players who have exhausted prospect eligibility or were in the Major Leagues as of June 22 are not eligible. Draftees from the 2016 draft and July 2, 2016 signees are also not eligible. SEE ALSO: Midseason Top 100
In 2014 and 2015 the Royals rode their speed and defense, an incredible bullpen and just enough hitting and starting pitching to make back-to-back World Series appearances and to win the team’s first championship since 1985.
C Salvador Perez
1B Eric Hosmer
2B Raul A. Mondesi
SS Alcides Escobar
3B Mike Moustakas
LF Alex Gordon
CF Lorenzo Cain
RF Brett Eibner
DH Cheslor Cuthbert
No. 1 Starter Ian Kennedy
No. 2 Starter Yordano Ventura
No. 3 Starter Danny Duffy
No. 4 Starter Matt Strahm
No. 5 Starter Alec Mills
Closer Wade Davis
This year, the Royals have hunkered down and are trying to survive. Six key members of the Royals’ lineup played in 140 or more games last year. Of the Royals’ core position players Alex Gordon was the only one to miss significant time last year. This year a collision between Mike Moustakas and Gordon knocked Moustakas out for the year and sidelined Gordon for nearly a month. Lorenzo Cain has visited the disabled list. A team that could send the same lineup out day after day last year has relied on getting help from callups like Brett Eibner, Cheslor Cuthbert and Whit Merrifield. Last July the Royals were able to fix the team’s two biggest holes by being aggressive on the trade market. This year Kansas City trailed the Indians by a significant margin at the all-star break, by seven games in third place, but were in the thick of the wild card race, leaving them with an interesting conundrum. The pitchers the Royals traded last year, such as lefthanders Cody Reed (Reds) and Sean Manaea (Athletics), are all pitching for other teams in the big leagues now. The farm system is the thinnest it has been since before the current big league club was drafted. Another busy July will leave little to build around in 2018 and beyond. But having already won one title, if there’s any team that can make an argument that the future is now, it’s the Royals. This roster will largely be gone in 2018. While Kansas City has done a good job of extending Salvador Perez and Yordano Ventura and re-upping Gordon, there is no chance that the team will find room to re-sign everyone who will hit free agency after the 2017 season. That list includes Moustakas, Hosmer, Cain, Wade Davis, Alcides Escobar, Danny Duffy and Jarrod Dyson. Even affording all of their options and arbitration awards next year will be taxing for a smaller revenue team. So the Royals could stay silent in the trade market and hope that the current roster is sufficient, but to do so will not be enough to keep the team contending in 2018 and beyond. Or the Royals can try to be aggressive again, rolling the dice that a team that seems to thrive in playoff pressure will be able to put together one more magical run. Considering how well the last two postseasons have gone for the Royals, the choice seems clear.
MIDSEASON TOP 10 1. Raul A. Mondesi, ss Mondesi seemed on the verge of finally taking his outstanding tools and turning in the kind of on-field dominance scouts had long expected. And then his season was put into deep freeze as he was suspended for 50 games for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug. Mondesi has returned to action and has played at three levels as he tries to get his timing back. He's already matched last season's home run total (six), but he continues to have swing-and-miss issues. Long-term he’s still the Royals’ best prospect and likely will be added to the big league roster this September.
2. Hunter Dozier, 3b If Dozier had merely missed last year because of injury, he’d likely be a Top 100 Prospect. He’s a first-round pick who is hitting .330/.394/.578 between Double-A and Triple-A. But Dozier wasn’t hurt last year. Instead he was one of the easiest outs in the Texas League with a pull-happy approach that didn’t work. This year’s he’s back to the shorter-swing and line-drive approach that got him drafted.
3. Ryan O’Hearn, 1b O’Hearn has legitimate power, which has been apparent throughout his pro career. But he’s now doing a better job of hitting for average as well. He’s got a shot to be a first baseman with 20-plus power and an average hit tool, though he'll have to continue to improve against lefthanded pitchers—all his homers this year have come against righthanders.
4. Matt Strahm, lhp Strahm is unlikely to end up as more than a No. 4 starter, but his combination of excellent command and solid stuff (90-94 mph fastball and above-average curveball) have him not far away from being able to fill that role in the big leagues.
5. Alec Mills, rhp Much like Strahm, Mills doesn’t really have a plus pitch but as a righthander with four average offerings, he succeeds by mixing pitches and hitting his spots. If Kansas City needs a fill-in starter in the second half of the season Mills is a solid option, though he struggled in his first, brief callup.
6. Jorge Bonifacio, of Bonifacio’s conversion from opposite-field power alley line-drive hitter to pull-heavy power hitter is complete. Of the 13 home runs Bonifacio has hit this year, 10 have gone to left or left center field. Bonifacio’s power has come largely at home (he’s slugging .300 points better at home). He’s sacrificed some of his contract ability, but Bonifacio is putting himself into competition with Brett Eibner and Bubba Starling to fill the holes in the outfield that will likely arrive in 2018 and beyond.
7. Josh Staumont, rhp After working as a reliever in his pro debut, Staumont has worked almost exclusively as a starter this year, the role he filled at Division II Asuza Pacific (Calif.). It’s helped him get more innings than he would have as a reliever, but it’s done nothing to tame what has long been frighteningly poor control. Scouts think the control and the results will eventually improve with a move to the pen that will allow him to junk his fringy changeup. He still has a fastball that can touch 100 mph in shorter outings.
8. Miguel Almonte, rhp It’s a scouting report that could have been written about Almonte at any point in the past four seasons. Almonte’s fastball (up to 98 mph) and changeup are big league caliber. His curveball and his control are not. At this point, he’s most likely to end up in the Royals bullpen.
9. Kyle Zimmer, rhp At this point believing that Zimmer will stay healthy seems foolhardy. Zimmer has been hurt at some point in each of the past five seasons. On July 19, it was announced that Zimmer needed surgery to deal with thoracic outlet syndrome. When healthy he’s still got the best stuff of any pitching prospect in the Royals’ farm system and in a thin system, but his injury issues make his ceiling difficult to reach.
10. Chase Vallot, c Vallot’s season has seen him miss time with an elbow injury and after he was hit in the face by an errant fastball. But when he’s played, he’s been one of the best power hitters in the low Class A South Atlantic League. Vallot is repeating the league but he’s still only a 19-year-old. His defense behind the plate still needs a lot of work, but his power could allow him to survive a position change.
RISING Catcher Meibrys Viloria didn’t have an extra-base hit last year. This year the 19-year-old catcher had 14 extra-base hits (and a .424 average) in his first 15 games with rookie-level Idaho Falls . . . Second baseman Corey Toups is a gamer who gets on-base and hits for average.
FALLING Outfielder Bubba Starling was promoted to Triple-A Omaha to see if a change of scenery could help, but his first half was awful. Starling can run, play defense and has power when he connects, but his hit tool will always be the question . . . Righthander Ashe Russell, the team’s No. 1 pick last year, has been held back in extended spring training and the Arizona League. He’s pitching but his fastball has disappeared—he’s 86-87 mph right now, 4-6 mph off his normal velocity . . . Shortstop Marten Gasparini has looked overmatched in his first try at full season ball.
GRADUATING Outfielder Brett Eibner’s long climb to the big leagues has paid off in a backup role that sees him capable of playing all three outfield spots . . . Third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert’s career high in home runs is 12. He has eight in just 52 games for Kansas City since replacing the injured Mike Moustakas . . . Versatile minor league veteran Whit Merrifield has leapt over Christian Colon to take over as the Royals’ everyday second baseman.
COMING ABOARD (Check Draft Database for all picks) The Reds' first five picks of the 2016 draft. (s-supplemental round) 2. A.J. Puckett, rhp, Pepperdine. Puckett was one of the breakout draft prospects of 2016. He has a chance to be a solid starting pitcher with solid command of a low-90s fastball and a changeup that flashes above-average. 3. Khalil Lee, of, Flint Hill HS, Oakton, Va. Some scouts liked Lee more as a pitcher but the Royals wanted to take advantage of Lee’s above-average speed and developing power. 4. Jace Vines, rhp, Texas A&M. Vines struggled at Texas A&M this season, losing his spot in the starting rotation after being shelled on a regular basis, but he has shown starter’s stuff in the past. 5. Nicky Lopez, ss, Creighton. Lopez’s bat is a little light, but he was one of the better defensive shortstops in this year’s draft class. He has excellent body control. 6. Cal Jones, of, Dadeville (Ala.) HS
Jake Cronenworth Dustinbradfordgetty

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. The Royals’ were happy to take a gamble on Jones’ athleticism and strength. He was a football/baseball star at Dadeville (Ala.) High who has speed and raw power.

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