BA Newsletter: Get Analysis, Rankings Delivered To Your Inbox!
Use the options to filter your search.
TRACK RECORD: Witt Jr. topped his father by one draft slot when the Royals picked him second overall in 2019. Witt Jr. was a regular on the showcase circuit as an amateur. He won the high school home run derby at Nationals Park during 2018 all-star weekend and led USA Baseball's 18U National Team to a gold medal at the 2018 Pan-American Championships. He followed that up by winning the BA High School Player of the Year award his senior year and signed with the Royals for $7,789,000, the largest draft bonus in franchise history. SCOUTING REPORT: Witt checks all the boxes for what is expected of a major league shortstop, with a super-athletic frame reminiscent of longtime Rockies star Troy Tulowitzki. Witt struggled with his timing in the Rookie-level Arizona League after a long layoff, however. Scouts noted Witt was too passive at the plate instead of driving pitches he could hit, but during instructional league he showed a much more aggressive approach with the ability to hit the ball to all fields. At his best, Witt shows good feel to hit, plus bat speed and a short, compact swing. He projects as an above-average hitter who should tap into his plus raw power. In addition to being a potential force as a hitter, Witt is a smart baserunner with above-average speed that ticks up to plus underway. His combination of power and speed gives him 20-home run, 20-stolen base potential, with a chance to possibly reach 30-30 in his best years. Defensively, Witt projects to be a top-tier shortstop with elite hands, a quick first step and good body control. He tends to get crossed up on balls in the hole and needs to improve his footwork, but that should come with time. Witt rounds out his supremely athletic package with a plus, accurate arm. While Witt's physical tools are considerable, his outstanding makeup and instincts stand out even more. Spending his first summer of pro ball in the AZL, he quickly bonded with teammates and demonstrated an enthusiasm and positivity readily evident to observers. THE FUTURE: Witt is a five-tool talent with the potential to become a franchise player, though not everyone is convinced he will hit for a high average. After the Royals were conservative with him during his first pro season, the gloves will be off in 2020 with a likely assignment to low Class A Lexington and early success could result in a move to high Class A Wilmington by midsummer.
TRACK RECORD: Lynch experienced a velocity bump in his draft year, and the Royals took him 34th overall in 2018 out of Virginia. He quickly emerged as a potential steal. Arm discomfort shut Lynch down for part of the 2019 season, but the lanky lefty still showed some of the best stuff in the high Class A Carolina League and touched 98 mph in the Arizona Fall League, where he started both the Fall Stars Game and the AFL championship game. SCOUTING REPORT: Lynch comes at hitters with a pair of plus pitches. First is his 92-97 mph fastball with a high spin rate that gets hitters chasing up in the zone. He backs it up with a hard, mid-80s slider with late bite and depth at the bottom of the zone. Those two pitches alone make him an uncomfortable at-bat, but he also has an average curveball he can land on the back foot of righthanded hitters and a mid-80s changeup that has gradually improved and started flashing plus. Lynch's three-quarters delivery features a clean arm action and should yield above-average control, even with the long limbs of his skinny, 6-foot-6 frame. THE FUTURE: Lynch's summer shutdown prevented him from reaching Double-A during the season, but he made up for lost time with his outstanding AFL. He is on track for Double-A in 2020.
TRACK RECORD: Kowar teamed with Brady Singer to lead Florida to a College World Series win in 2017. The Royals drafted Singer 18th overall a year later and selected Kowar shortly after with the 33rd overall pick. Both made the jump to Double-A in their first full seasons, with Kowar pulling ahead of Singer in the eyes of many evaluators. SCOUTING REPORT: Kowar is defined by his changeup. It's a lethal, plus-plus offering that comes at hitters in the mid-80s before falling through a trap door, drawing foolish swings and leaving opponents confounded. He pairs his changeup with a 93-96 mph fastball that has two-seam life in on righthanded batters, and that fastball-changeup combination is often all he needs to dominate. Kowar's low-70s curveball with three-quarters break is still developing, but he has gained more confidence in it to take pressure off his changeup. It has average potential but could improve as his comfort level grows. Kowar is a fierce competitor on the mound who never backs down from a challenge. He is an effective strike-thrower and can expand the zone when needed. THE FUTURE: Kowar will spend 2020 at the upper levels of the minors, with Triple-A Omaha on the horizon. Developing his breaking ball is his top priority.
TRACK RECORD: The Blue Jays drafted Singer in the second round out of high school but they failed to come to terms. Singer made his way to Florida and delivered one of the most decorated careers in school history, leading the Gators to a College World Series championship as a sophomore and winning BA College Player of the Year award as a junior. The Royals drafted him 18th overall in 2018 and signed him for just under $4.25 million. Singer cruised to Double-A in his first full season, earning a selection to the Futures Game. SCOUTING REPORT: Singer thrives on a sinker-slider combination that induces a large number of ground balls. His fastball sits 91-94 mph with late life in on the hands of righthanded batters. His sharp, mid-80s slider is already a plus pitch he can use to draw swings and misses. Singer rarely uses his 85-87 mph changeup, which—along with his low arm slot—has hampered his effectiveness at times against lefthanded hitters. Evaluators saw no issues in 2019 and give him the benefit of the doubt. Singer's changeup is still a bit too firm, but he is gaining confidence in it and could make it an average pitch in time. THE FUTURE: Singer will likely see Triple-A at some point in 2020 and could reach the majors if his changeup develops.
TRACK RECORD: Isbel got off to a hot start after the Royals made him their third-round pick in 2018, but injuries sidetracked him in 2019. A hamstring injury followed by a hamate injury largely kept him on the sidelines from mid-April until July 4 and led to a lost season. Isbel started hot at high Class A Wilmington, hitting .348 with power through 13 games, but he lost his timing at the plate with the layoff and hit .176 in his last 39 games. He rebounded to hit .315/.429/.438 in the Arizona Fall League. SCOUTING REPORT: A fast-twitch athlete who puts together good at-bats, Isbel uses a short, line-drive stroke to all fields to project as an above-average hitter. While he doesn't look like a power hitter at 5-foot-11, 183 pounds, he has sneaky pop and could hit 10-15 home runs. Often described as a gamer, Isbel has solid tools across the board. He is a plus runner who has a chance to be a plus defender in center field with a quick first step and an average arm. He is still learning his routes and reads in the outfield after primarily playing second base in college. THE FUTURE: Isbel looks to be the Royals' center fielder of the future. Even if he falls short of that outcome, he has the skills to be a valuable semi-regular who can play the outfield and second base. He will head to Double-A Northwest Arkansas in 2020.
TRACK RECORD: Peña was one of the top players in the 2019 international class, with the Royals signing the Dominican outfielder for a $3,897,500 bonus on July 2. He spent the latter half of the summer working out at the organization's complex in Arizona before getting into games during instructional league. SCOUTING REPORT: Peña didn't look out of place in instructs with plus athleticism and advanced feel for the game, especially considering he was playing against older competition. He's got a good work ethic, goes about his business on the field, and is already a fluent English speaker. At the plate, Pena has good balance with strong hands and a level swing, projecting to be an average or better hitter with plus power, but he doesn't yet show the necessary plate coverage to limit the strikeouts. He's got good feel for fielding, taking solid breaks in the outfield and an average arm. Pena is an average runner now but his future speed grade will depend on how his tall, lean body develops with maturity. THE FUTURE: Peña won't turn 17 until spring training. Since he's already spent the bulk of his time in Arizona since signing with the Royals, he'll most likely skip over the Dominican Summer League to make his official pro debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2020.
TRACK RECORD: Lee has been young for his level every year since the Royals drafted him in the third round in 2016. He spent the entire 2019 season at Double-A Northwest Arkansas after first heading there partway through the 2018 season on his 20th birthday. Lee's numbers improved his second time through the Texas League, headlined by a league-leading 53 stolen bases. SCOUTING REPORT: Lee presents an intriguing mix of power and speed, though how much he will get out of each is an open question. At the plate, Lee drives the ball into the gaps when he makes contact, but his swing gets stiff and at times he gets too passive at the plate. His strikeout rate remains alarmingly close to 30 percent and has improved only modestly over the years. These factors contribute to a below-average feel for hitting. Lee's aboveaverage speed is sufficient and plays on the bases, but he doesn't always show the instincts or closing speed for center field. As such, most evaluators prefer him on an outfield corner, where his plus arm will play in either right or left. THE FUTURE: Lee will still be only 21 on Opening Day and should get a crack at Triple-A Omaha. He will be tested by the advanced pitching at the level, but has a chance to make his major league debut during the season.
TRACK RECORD: Often thought of as the fourth pitcher in the Royals' 2018 draft quartet with Brady Singer, Daniel Lynch and Jackson Kowar, Bubic delivered a first full season that stacked up with any of them. The Stanford product led the minors with 185 strikeouts and posted a 2.24 ERA at a pair of Class A stops between low Class A Lexington and high Class A Wilmington, earning a selection to the Futures Game along the way. SCOUTING REPORT: Considered a touch-and-feel lefty when he was drafted, Bubic as a pro has shown an above-average fastball that is tough to hit when he keeps it down in the zone. Bubic can run his heater up to 94 mph and it plays up with heavy sink and armside run, though his velocity fluctuates quite a bit. Bubic pairs his fastball with a plus changeup which stands as the gem of his arsenal. The pitch sinks and dives to generate swings and misses, though he doesn't always throw it as much as he should. Bubic's 1-to-7 curveball has solid bite and projects to average to give him a usable third offering. Bubic has a big, durable body that he keeps under control on the mound. A stab and pause in his delivery provide deception but do not hamper his above-average control. THE FUTURE: Bubic has all the makings of a solid back-end starter. He will head to Double-A Northwest Arkansas in 2020.
TRACK RECORD: The Royals drafted five pitchers before calling Cox's name in the fifth round in 2018, but the Mercer product quickly impressed after a strong 2019 season. An erratic pitcher in college, Cox impressed both Royals personnel and opposing scouts alike with a 2.76 ERA at two Class A levels, a lower figure than he ever posted in the hitter-friendly Southern Conference. SCOUTING REPORT: Cox pitches aggressively with a plus fastball he gets to both sides of the plate. He sits 90-93 mph and touches 96. He stands out for his plus control and feel to pitch and complements his heater with a true 12-to-6 curveball the Royals consider the best in their organization. Cox is still developing an average mid-80s changeup he throws with the same arm speed as his other pitches. The key to Cox's improvement has been his control and command. A big lefty who took time to grow into his body, he now features a free and easy overhand delivery that is simple and repeatable. As such, his walk rate dropped dramatically from 4.4 per nine innings his final year in college to 2.6 per nine in his first full pro season. THE FUTURE: Some observers believe Cox has more upside than many of the more touted pitchers in the Royals' system. He'll get a chance to prove it at Double-A Northwest Arkansas in 2020.
TRACK RECORD: Pratto entered the 2017 draft with a decorated track record that included multiple gold medals playing for USA Baseball's junior national teams. The Royals drafted him 14th overall and signed him for $3.45 million. Pratto's amateur success has not translated to pro ball. He hit just .191 in a miserable season for high Class A Wilmington in 2019, though he hit seven of his nine home runs in the second half and got hot in time to help the Blue Rocks win the Carolina League championship. SCOUTING REPORT: While the results were subpar, Pratto impressed observers by consistently putting together good at-bats and staying mentally tough through his struggles. He shows good instincts at the plate but needs to be more aggressive and avoid deep counts. He flashes average power and has the physical tools to hit .260 or better with an improved approach. Pratto's struggles at the plate didn't affect his work in the field, where he projects as a plus defender at first base with sound footwork, soft hands and an above-average arm. He is a fringe-average runner, but his advanced baserunning instincts have led to at least 10 stolen bases every year. THE FUTURE: Pratto spent the fall working with new Royals hitting coordinators Drew Saylor and Keoni De Renne. His offseason progress will determine where he opens 2020.
TRACK RECORD: A second-round pick in 2018, the burly Bowlan reported to spring training in better shape and rode his improved conditioning to a strong season at both Class A levels. The highlight of his season was a no-hitter in his fifth game after being promoted to high Class A Wilmington. SCOUTING REPORT: Bowlan, who checks in at 262 pounds, stands out for how well he commands his pitches and is credited with having the best control in the Royals' system. He throws a heavy fastball from a full windup, sitting 90-95 mph and touching 97. Bowlan has two more potential plus pitches—a slider that got better tilt to it while working with Wilmington pitching coach Steve Luebber, and a changeup for which he has good feel. All pitches show above-average life and deception from a delivery that he repeats well. He's got good pitchability with a good idea of what he's doing on the mound. THE FUTURE: Bowlan is the prototypical workhorse who projects in the middle or back of a rotation, but he has to watch his weight. He is set to see Double-A in 2020.
TRACK RECORD: While many of the young hitters at Wilmington had difficulties adjusting to Carolina League pitching, none had as tough a time as Melendez. His .163 batting average and 24.2-percent swinging-strike rate were worst among all minor league hitters with at least 350 plate appearances. SCOUTING REPORT: Melendez's problems stem from not having a real plan at the plate, using an all-ornothing swing and having trouble hitting good velocity. He has good hands and makes hard contact with a level swing, but he needs to change his approach to use more of the field instead of pulling everything. Melendez's catch-and-throw skills keep him on the radar. He's athletic and moves well behind the plate, although there is still improvement to be made in framing and blocking. A plus arm is his best tool, as seen in 2019 when he threw out 60 percent of basestealers, tops in the Carolina League by a wide margin. THE FUTURE: Melendez will return to Wilmington in 2020 looking to restore his prospect stock. Some scouts now project a backup catcher's ceiling but he's still young enough to change their minds.
TRACK RECORD: Originally signed by the Royals for $1.5 million during the 2015 international signing period, Guzman took four years to start tapping into his potential. He put himself back on the prospect radar in 2019 with a respectable season at low Class A Lexington, followed by time with the Dominican Republic national team at the Premier 12 tournament. SCOUTING REPORT: Guzman's defense alone may get him to the big leagues. He's a plus defender with at shortstop solid footwork and a good arm, and the leadership he shows on the field stands out. Guzman showed growth at the plate in 2019. He is slowly generating more quality at-bats, staying in the zone better and staying on the ball through his swing. He hasn't moved completely away from his free-swinging ways and will need to cut down on strikeouts. While Guzman has gotten stronger, he is still a light hitter overall. THE FUTURE: Guzman's ceiling may not get much above the role of a utility infielder, but if he continues making strides at the plate he could project as a regular shortstop batting at the bottom of the order. He will head to high Class A Wilmington in 2020.
TRACK RECORD: Coming off a promising 2018 season at low Class A Lexington, Hernandez was ready to move up to the next level before breaking a rib during spring training. The hefty Venezuelan didn't get back on the mound for an official game until mid-June but finished with seven strong starts back at Lexington. SCOUTING REPORT: Hernandez's fastball sits 93-97 mph and regularly touches the high 90s, with at least one report of him up to 101 during instructs. He has an easy delivery that helps the ball explode out of his hand. The pitch is fairly true but benefits from solid downhill angle. All of Hernandez's secondary pitches—slider, curveball, changeup—are below-average now, although his 80-83 mph curveball flashes plus. He needs to improve the command and the quality of those pitches to keep hitters off-balance. THE FUTURE: Hernandez will get a second chance to make the high Class A Wilmington squad. If the command and secondaries come together with experience, Hernandez could be a force either in the rotation or in the back end of the bullpen. The latter role is more likely. The Royals added Hernandez to the 40-man roster after the season to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.
TRACK RECORD: Haake is perhaps the poster child for both outstanding amateur scouting and player development. He posted an 8.47 ERA in his one year at Kentucky, but the Royals were astute enough to pick him in the sixth round in 2018 and sign him to a $297,500 bonus. SCOUTING REPORT: Haake missed part of the 2019 season at low Class A Lexington with shoulder soreness but pitched well in his 18 starts at the level. He's two or three inches taller than his listed height, with a lanky frame that can add strength. With a big fastball in the mid-to-upper-90s, he's capable of beating hitters with it up in the zone but needs more consistency with the pitch. Haake's best secondary pitch is a potential plus changeup that looks like a slider because it moves so much before dropping quickly. He needs to develop consistency with the slider, a potential plus pitch with 11-to-5 break getting good depth and late movement. THE FUTURE: There's still some rawness to Haake's game and questions persist as to how deep into games he'll be able to get, but he's got the tools and athleticism to take a big jump forward over the next year. He's slated for high Class A Wilmington.
TRACK RECORD: Matias was showing little of his raw potential and sky-high ceiling during the early months of the Carolina League season, even after a good start in the first couple of weeks. It turns out that Matias was playing with a broken hand, with his season ending for good on June 11. SCOUTING REPORT: When he's right, Matias has an impressive set of tools that come with plenty of risk. He might never be more than a below-average hitter but with the plus-plus power to compensate for any other shortcomings. Matias had made strides in pitch-recognition prior to the 2019 season but went backward due to the hand injury. Scouts still see an above-average defender with prototypical right field skills, with a plus or better arm. THE FUTURE: Reports on his batting practice sessions in the fall instructional league were positive, so he should be ready to go in the spring with an almost certain return to Wilmington. Missing a year of development wasn't the optimal situation for Matias, but he'll play all of next year while still only 21.
TRACK RECORD: McConnell got off to a good start in his first pro season, but then went out for two weeks with a hip flexor injury less than a month into his time in the Pioneer League. He wasn't the same hitter when he came back. His season ended for good when an errant groundball caught him in the head, giving him a concussion that kept him out through the fall instructional league. SCOUTING REPORT: McConnell has a well-rounded skill set, possessing an intriguing blend of plus raw power and plus speed. The ball makes a different sound when he barrels it up, thanks to strong, quick hands. There's plenty of swing-and-miss to his approach. While he's a shortstop now, it's more likely that McConnell moves around the field in the future, with the athleticism, arm strength and footwork to play multiple positions in a super utility role. THE FUTURE: McConnell should head to low Class A Lexington after spring training. Expect him to get time around the field to see if that super utility projection still fits.
TRACK RECORD: Gutierrez made it to the big leagues in his age-25 season, getting into 20 games just over a year after being acquired from the Nationals as part of the deal for Kelvin Herrera. He spent the rest of the year at Triple-A Omaha for 75 games before a fractured toe ended his season early. SCOUTING REPORT: If he could hit a little better, Gutierrez would be easy to pencil in as the Royals' third baseman of the future. He's often graded as a plus defender at the hot corner, with good hands and a plus-plus arm. At the plate he's a free swinger who struggles to cover the outer half of the plate and is susceptible to spin away. He has raw power but sells out for it. THE FUTURE: Gutierrez will get a chance at regular playing time during spring training, with the hope that he'll start tapping into the power needed for a corner-infield position.
TRACK RECORD: Hicklen will always carry the reputation of possessing a football mentality, having been a member of the Alabama-Birmingham team during the period when the program was being reinstated. That mindset has helped him in the pros and he's been labeled as a leader and credited with strong makeup. After a brief stint with high Class A Wilmington in 2018 when the Blue Rocks won the Carolina League championship, Hicklen returned there in 2019 to help the team earn its second straight crown. SCOUTING REPORT: Standing out for his athleticism and plus speed, Hicklen is still a bit behind his counterparts in learning the nuances of baseball and catching up to the speed of the game. He has plus raw power but projects to be more hit over power because his swing lacks the necessary loft. He controls the zone and draws a fair share of walks and does damage when getting on base. An average defender, Hicklen can handle all three outfield positions, which fits with his likely projection as a solid fourth outfielder. THE FUTURE: Hicklen will get to Double-A Northwest Arkansas in 2020.
TRACK RECORD: Del Rosario started his career in the Braves organization before being declared a free agent as part of Atlanta's penalties for circumventing international signing rules. All looked rosy for the native Dominican during a strong spring training in 2019, but he missed the entire regular season with a nerve issue in his arm. SCOUTING REPORT: Prior to the injury, Del Rosario showed good command of a mid-90s fastball with late life to both sides of the plate. The pitch topped at 96 in the spring. He complements the fastball with a potential plus curveball around 80 mph and a firm 88-89 mph changeup. His funky delivery has some deception when he doesn't throw across his body. THE FUTURE: Del Rosario's likely landing spot will be high Class A Wilmington.
TRACK RECORD: Tillo popped back on the prospect radar in 2019 with a strong season at high Class A Wilmington and Double-A Northwest Arkansas. He then had a busy fall, with an assignment to the Arizona Fall League before joining the USA Baseball's Premier12 team on trips to Mexico and Japan. SCOUTING REPORT: An all-state basketball player in high school, Tillo is athletic with a tall, strong body. Using a low slot, he delivers a four-seam fastball that sits 91-96 mph and touches 97 with good life through the zone. Tillo's mid-80s slider and solid-average changeup lag behind the heater due to fringe command. THE FUTURE: Still relatively inexperienced compared to other pitchers at the same level, Tillo has growth potential if he improves his command. Scouts see him as a potential piece out of the bullpen, where his stuff could get sharper and tick up. He'll head back to Double-A in 2020.
TRACK RECORD: Heasley didn't live up to expectations in his two years at Oklahoma State before the Royals picked him in the 13th round in 2018, signing the draft-eligible sophomore for an over-slot $247,500 bonus. His first pro season did nothing to put him on prospect lists, but improved confidence in his arsenal in 2019 helped change his projection. SCOUTING REPORT: Heasley uses a 90-95 mph higher-spin fastball that he commands well. A new, higher slot led to even more velocity, including a few brushes with 97 during the Carolina League playoffs. Heasley complements the heater with three secondary pitches, the best being a 12-to-6 curveball that flashes plus. That pitch is down and late when thrown to the outer portion of the strike zone. The changeup could be a plus pitch in time, as it's tough on righthanded batters when he stays on it longer and finishes it better. Heasley is very competitive on the mound and repeats his delivery. THE FUTURE: Another year of continued improvement could make Heasley next year's pop-up prospect, although many scouts see him as a reliever. He'll head to high Class A Wilmington in 2020.
TRACK RECORD: Marsh soared up draft boards during his junior year at Arizona State, where he excelled as the Sun Devils' Friday night ace. His first pro experience with Idaho Falls of the rookie-level Pioneer League was quite good, and he finished with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 38-to-4. SCOUTING REPORT: Marsh is aggressive on the mound and pitches to contact, with his best pitch being a 90-94 mph fastball that he throws as a two-seamer and a four-seamer. He has both a slider and a curveball that flash as plus pitches, but he needs to get more separation between the two breaking balls and gain more confidence. Marsh has feel for a solid-average changeup that he throws with good arm speed and natural sink. He delivers all of his pitches from the same arm slot with a clean, repeatable delivery. THE FUTURE: Marsh is ready to form an orderly line with the multitude of Royals pitching prospects heading to full-season ball, with his likely destination being low Class A Lexington. He projects as a solid-bodied back-end starter.
TRACK RECORD: After zooming through the Royals' system, Lovelady made it to the big leagues for two stints less than three years after being drafted in the 10th round from Kennesaw State. While just as effective with Triple-A Omaha in 2019 as in the previous year, Lovelady's major league time had mixed results. He especially struggled in August, giving up runs in each of his last seven appearances. SCOUTING REPORT: The key to Lovelady's arsenal is an electric mid-90s four-seam fastball with plenty of sinking action. He throws the pitch from a funky, slingshot arm action. The heater has an extra gear to it because of his elite extension. He complements the pitch with a potentially plus slider in the upper 80s. He worked to incorporate a changeup in 2019 but seldom used it during his time in the big leagues. THE FUTURE: Lovelady had offseason surgery on his right knee but should be all clear by spring training. He stands a good chance of breaking camp in the Royals bullpen because of his ability to get righthanded batters out, indicating that he can be more than just a lefty specialist.
TRACK RECORD: Ever since taking him in the second round in 2015, the Royals have waited for Staumont to harness his command to best utilize his triple-digit fastball. After returning to Triple-A Omaha for a third season, Staumont made it to Kansas City for his major league debut last year and delivered 16 fairly effective relief appearances. SCOUTING REPORT: Staumont is hard to hit when he throws strikes, but therein lies the problem. He walked 6.49 batters per nine innings with Omaha, about the same as the previous year. Staumont's fastball explodes out of his hand from an easy delivery and arrives in the upper 90s with natural sinking action. When thrown for strikes, it's a devastating pitch. Staumont also gets swings and misses on a low-80s curveball that has 11-to-5 tilt. Because he doesn't get his fastball in the strike zone enough, however, opposing hitters don't often find themselves in unfavorable counts. THE FUTURE: Staumont has settled into a relief role but has made a few starts at Omaha in an opener's role. The Royals need pitching, so he has a strong chance to break camp on their Opening Day roster.
TRACK RECORD: Heath has perennially intrigued with elite athleticism and plus-plus speed, with observers waiting for the baseball skills to catch up. He showed his potential with a strong Arizona Fall League season in 2018 and rose to Triple-A Omaha in 2019. SCOUTING REPORT: Heath is a plus-plus athlete with plus-plus speed and the defensive skills to stick in center field. While he doesn't have good baseball instincts, he's coachable and has the makeup to continue learning the game. His tick below-average arm is enough to handle any outfield position in a utility role. At the plate, Heath uses a simple, handsy swing but doesn't efficiently use his lower half. He flashes sneaky power in batting practice, but Heath's game is to make contact and create hits with his speed. That doesn't jive well with his alarming propensity for swinging and missing in the strike zone. THE FUTURE: Heath is the type of player the Royals like to carry as a speedy fourth or fifth outfielder and he's now been added to the 40-man roster. He will start the year back at Triple-A Omaha.
TRACK RECORD: At Lipscomb, Gigliotti fit the profile of a speedster who takes good at-bats, which led the Royals to draft him in the fourth round in 2017. His problem as a pro has been staying on the field. Gigliotti missed almost all of 2018 with a serious knee injury and played just 87 games in 2019. SCOUTING REPORT: The best news is that Gigliotti's knee is as strong as ever, exceeding his pre-injury marks in speed tests and re-affirming his grade as a plus-plus runner. He has good instincts on the basepaths and stole 36 bags during his abbreviated 2019 season. Gigliotti is a patient gap-to-gap hitter with feel to hit and good hands, although he lacks home run power. A plus defender in center field, he takes good routes and gets jumps on balls. His average arm works in all three outfield spots, and he is an intelligent and instinctual ballplayer. THE FUTURE: Gigliotti will turn 24 just before spring training and will likely start the year at Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Most see him as a future fourth outfielder or better, but only if he can stay healthy.
TRACK RECORD: After missing all of 2018 with a shoulder injury, Steele's season didn't start until mid- May and ended just two months later. He pitched effectively when he was on the mound, logging a 2.39 ERA over 11 starts at low Class A Lexington. SCOUTING REPORT: Steele's fastball sits 91-92 mph, touches 94 and plays up with the extra movement and sink he gets on it. There were times that the fastball sat more in the high 80s because he was still getting his feet back under him after so much downtime. His arm action and delivery allow him to command all four of his pitches. The effectiveness of the curveball and slider vary depending on the day, but there's enough separation between the two. He uses a funky, lower slot delivery to give lefthanded hitters tough at-bats. The changeup improved during the season and shows a bit more depth when he stays behind the pitch through his delivery. THE FUTURE: Steele may again start his season in extended spring training before returning to Lexington or heading to high Class A Wilmington. Steele has starter potential, but his deceptive delivery from the left side means he could do well in a bullpen role.
TRACK RECORD: Griffin was coming off a rough 2018 season in Double-A, where the southpaw struggled to command his fastball, but the Royals still challenged him with an assignment to the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. He fared better than the numbers would indicate. Griffin finished the calendar year in the Dominican Winter League pitching in a relief role with impressive results, striking out 31 in 23.1 innings while walking just six. SCOUTING REPORT: Griffin was a better pitcher in the second half as the fastball ticked up to 92-94 mph with better command and more confidence throwing it. He adds cut to some of his fastballs resulting in more lateral movement than the regular heater, giving a different look to hitters. His go-to pitch is an 81-82 mph changeup that has good deception and break and is thrown with the same arm speed. Griffin commands his low-80s curveball, getting good spin and using it as a chase pitch below the zone. THE FUTURE: The Royals showed their confidence in Griffin by adding him to the 40-man roster. The bullpen experience in winter ball makes him a little more intriguing heading into the 2020 season, with his fastball velocity ticking up a notch and his stuff being a bit crisper in shorter stints.
TRACK RECORD: Morel was acquired by the Royals as one of three prospects in the deal for big league reliever Kelvin Herrera. He draws comparisons to Herrera for having a live arm with big velocity from a smaller frame. After starting the year in extended spring training at age 18, Morel went to low Class A Lexington for the remainder of the season. SCOUTING REPORT: Morel has feel to pitch and a competitive nature on the mound. The fastball sits 91-95 mph and he uses both a four-seamer and a two-seamer, with the latter being his preference to get grounders. He needs to improve the command of his fastball, especially to the inside part of the plate. Morel complements his fastballs with a wipeout 81-84 mph slider that flashes plus, a swing-and-miss pitch held like a spike curveball that he tunnels well to the plate with late break. Rounding out Morel's bag of tricks is a hard changeup at 86-88 mph that drops into the zone from the same arm slot and arm speed as the fastball. Both the fastball and the changeup are plus pitches. THE FUTURE: Morel will be only 19 for most of the 2020 season, so a return to Lexington is likely. He could thrive in a bullpen role pitching in shorter stints, but that decision is years away.
In order to access this exclusive content you must have a Baseball America Account.
Login or sign up