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TRACK RECORD: Singer was another in the long line of highly-acclaimed starting pitchers coming out of the University of Florida. But the righthander’s pedigree goes further back then his time in Gainesville. He was a Blue Jays second-round pick out of high school who opted not to sign. The decision to skip pro ball the first time around turned out to be a wise choice by Singer. He was a key member of the Gators’ rotation as a sophomore and junior and was the Baseball America College Player of the Year in 2018. Coming into the season, Singer was seen as a potential top-five pick for the 2018 draft. He slid to the 18th pick, but his $4.25 million bonus was nearly $1 million above the slot for that pick and was the 11th richest bonus in the first round. After pitching deep into the College World Series, Singer waited until three days before the deadline to sign. Because of Singer’s heavy college workload in addition to a minor hamstring problem after reporting to the Royals’ complex this summer, he has yet to make his official pro debut. He made several appearances in instructional league.
SCOUTING REPORT: The Royals were thrilled to get a near major league-ready pitcher that far into the draft. They see Singer as a starter with a durable body and competitive makeup. He flashes two plus pitches—a fastball and slider—delivered from a lower arm slot. That arm slot concerned some scouts, and they said they felt it limited his ability to consistently throw his changeup. While still a bit rusty during instructional league, Singer looked the part. His fastball sat 91-94 mph, which was close to his college velocity, with good movement down in the zone. His lower arm slot helps him get plenty of run on his fastball. He has really good feel for his sharp slider, which comes in around 83 mph. He didn’t have to use a changeup much in college and the pitch still is inconsistent for him. Singer has yet to become comfort- able throwing it frequently, but it has potential to give him another above-average offspeed weapon. His control grades as above-average.
THE FUTURE: Singer will likely start his career in a loaded high Class A Wilmington rotation in 2019. His advanced control and competitiveness give him a chance to be a mid-rotation starter. With his big-game experience and arsenal, Singer will move quickly through the system and could reach Double-A before the end of his first pro season.
TRACK RECORD: Lee continued on the fast track through the Royals’ system, making it to Double-A by his 20th birthday. The athletic outfielder took big strides forward in 2018, especially in cutting his strikeout rate from 32 percent in his first full season to 25 percent despite moving two levels higher. He also improved his walk rate from 12 to 14 percent. He missed the last month of 2018 to back soreness but made up for lost time with an assignment to the Arizona Fall League.
SCOUTING REPORT: The key to Lee’s improvement at the plate resulted from cutting down on his swing with two strikes and using the whole field more often. The larger ballparks in the Carolina League suppressed his home run total, which dropped from 17 in 2017 to six in 2018. But Lee projects to hit for more power as he matures. He shows easy plus raw power in batting practice. He has good feel to hit and keeps his hands back and works deep counts. While not a burner, Lee is a smart baserunner and the above-average speed, athleticism and arm to stay in center field.
THE FUTURE: Lee will return to Double-A Northwest Arkansas to start the 2019 season. Lee should be starting in Kansas City by the end of 2020.
TRACK RECORD: Lynch shot up draft boards late in the spring of 2018 when he showed improved stuff and control, including an excellent Atlantic Coast Conference tournament start in front of many Royals front office officials. Based on an outstanding pro debut between Rookie- level Burlington and low Class A Lexington, Lynch has solidified the belief that his improvement is sustainable.
SCOUTING REPORT: After sitting 88-92 mph for much for his college career, Lynch’s velocity bumped up to 93-95 late. As a pro, he touched 97 mph and continued to sit 93-95. He commands his plus fastball to both sides of the plate and is able to front-door his two-seamer back over the plate against righthanded hitters. Lynch throws two 83-85 mph breaking balls, and he varies the shape between the two. Both pitches have sharp downward bite and generate swings and misses, with his wipeout slider being the better of the two. His 85 mph changeup flashes above-average potential but is currently his most inconsistent pitch. It’s a good pitch when he sells it, but he too often tries to guide it.
THE FUTURE: Lynch will move up to high Class A Wilmington in 2019, along with fellow first-rounders Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar.
TRACK RECORD: Royals scouts obviously liked what they saw from the University of Florida pitching staff in 2018 because they used their top two draft picks to grab the Gators' top two starters. They took Brady Singer at 18 and Kowar at 33.
SCOUTING REPORT: Like Singer, Kowar already sports a pair of plus pitches. His wipeout plus-plus changeup is already regarded as the best in the organization. He has easy velocity, and his fastball touched 97 mph in his pro debut. He delivers his pitches with a clean arm action, and he should be able to improve his velocity as he adds strength to his tall, lean frame. Kowar generates fastball arm speed and screwball action on his 85-87 mph changeup, which has plenty of fading action. His breaking ball got slurvy at Florida before he settled into a mid-to-upper-70s curveball that projects to be an average pitch as he gets more consistency with it. Kowar pitches with a free-and-easy delivery, though he can get in trouble when he gets too quick with his delivery and leaves pitches up in the zone.
THE FUTURE: Kowar will continue to pair with Singer as they advance to the big leagues. They will start the season together at high Class A Wilmington.
TRACK RECORD: The overachieving Lopez continued to impress in 2018 by advancing to Triple-A midway through his second full professional season. He has walked more than he has struck out and posted a .371 on-base percentage in his pro career.
SCOUTING REPORT: Lopez is a smart and instinctive ballplayer who consistently plays above his tools. While he needs to keep adding strength to his slight frame, he has good barrel control and understands the strike zone. He works counts and knows how to take his walks. He’s a plus hitter with excellent on-base skills, even if he likely never will hit more than 10 home runs. While his range at both middle-infield positions is no better than average, he gets his body in the right position to make plays, and his average arm is enough because of an excellent internal clock. He’s a plus runner with good instincts on the bases.
THE FUTURE: With Whit Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi set in the Royals’ middle infield, Lopez will get additional seasoning at Triple-A. While not yet on the 40-man roster, he likely will make his big league debut in 2019. He is at least an option as utility infielder, but he has potential to be an everyday second baseman.
TRACK RECORD: The son of Florida International head coach Mervyl Melendez, MJ showed good apti- tude at the plate and advanced skills behind it. Melendez shared catching duties at low Class A Lexington with Sebastian Rivero for the South Atlantic League champs. Both Melendez and Rivero earned spots in the SAL all-star game.
SCOUTING REPORT: Melendez makes hard contact at the plate with a level swing and good hand-eye coordination that gives him power to all fields. Plus, he shows the aptitude to adjust during at-bats. Despite hitting .251, Melendez projects as an average hitter. He sells out for power at times, as evidenced by his 30 percent strikeout rate in 2018, but he gets to his plus power. Melendez is an average runner who runs much better than the average catcher. Behind the plate, he needs to continue working on the mechanics of his setup and receiving, but he works well with pitchers. He is bilingual and calls a good game. His plus arm helped him tie for the SAL lead by throwing out 42 percent of basestealers.
THE FUTURE: Young catchers don’t typically hit like Melendez did in 2018. He projects as a first-division regular with a power bat behind the plate. He’ll move on to high Class A Wilmington in 2019.
TRACK RECORD: Pratto was the Royals’ first-round pick in 2017 after an illustrious high school career in Southern California and with multiple Team USA outfits. He got off to a slow start in 2018 but finished strong by compiling a 1.106 OPS in his final 32 games and following that with a .333/.474/.600 batting line in the South Atlantic League playoffs.
SCOUTING REPORT: Pratto’s late-season improvement at the plate came as he shortened his swing and got more aggressive. His 28 percent strikeout rate was surprisingly high for a hitter with his advanced approach and good batting eye. While scouts question whether he’ll develop the plus home run power desired from a first baseman, he has the potential to be a plus hitter who needs to figure out how to tap into his plus raw power. A fringe-average runner, Pratto is a heady base- runner. He’s an above-average defender with good footwork, good hands and instincts.
THE FUTURE:Pratto’s strong finish helped allay some concerns about his bat. He’ll have to continue to develop more power, but he has the potential to be an everyday first baseman with a plus bat and at least average power.
TRACK RECORD: Matias had a chance to break the South Atlantic League record for home runs, which was set by Russell Branyan with 40 in 1996. But a freak accident when he caught his thumb in the cargo door of the team bus caused him to miss the last month of the season. Even so, Matias finished with 31 homers as well as an impressive opposite-field shot in the Futures Game.
SCOUTING REPORT: Despite projecting to be a below-average hitter, Matias has plenty of impact potential thanks to his plus-plus power and impressive set of tools. He made progress at the plate in his first full season, showing an ability to make adjustments, especially in the second half when he toned down his aggressiveness against breaking balls. Matias will need to cut down his strikeout rate from a lofty 35 percent, but his overall improvements indicate that he will improve his contact rate when he gains better control of his aggressive nature at the plate. Matias has prototype right field tools as an average defender with a plus-plus arm and above-average speed underway.
THE FUTURE: Matias has a lofty ceiling but also carries more risk than any other Royals Top 10 Prospect. He will jump to high Class A Wilmington in 2019.
TRACK RECORD: An increase in power (14 home runs in his junior year compared to six the year before) and a much-improved ability to get on base helped boost Isbel up draft boards in 2018. The Royals grabbed the lefthanded hitter in the third round. He quickly showed he was too advanced for Rookie-level Idaho Falls in his pro debut and advanced to low Class A Lexington.
SCOUTING REPORT: Isbel profiles as a top-of-the-order bat with very good plate discipline. He projects as an above-average hitter who uses a compact swing to shoot balls to the gaps. He’s more of a doubles hitter for now but has above-average raw power and should park 10-15 home runs over the fence eventually. He’s also an aggressive baserunner with plus speed. Isbel is still relatively new to the outfield, having entered college as a second baseman, and his inexperience shows at times with some of the routes he takes. He should be able to stay in center field with his first-step quickness and an above-average arm.
THE FUTURE: Isbel’s advanced baseball instincts, raw tools and hard-nosed style of play should allow him to jump to what should be a stacked high Class A Wilmington club next year.
TRACK RECORD: Bubic capped his three-year career at Stanford with an outstanding junior season in which he went 8-1, 2.62. The Royals continued their run on college arms with the extra draft picks they had accumulated, selecting Bubic in the supplemental first round with the 40th overall pick.
SCOUTING REPORT: Bubic profiles as a back-of-the-rotation innings-burner with a high floor and less ceiling than his fellow Royals first-rounders. His 90-94 mph fastball has good run and sink. It’s a pitch that he can cut to his glove side and sink to his arm side. The gem of Bubic’s arsenal is his plus changeup with late sink. His mid-to-high 70s curveball has medium depth and 12-to-6 movement. It projects as an average pitch. Bubic gets some deception from his low-effort delivery, which features a pause in the back that creates timing issues for opposing hitters.
THE FUTURE: The Royals added a plethora of high-profile college pitchers to their system via the 2018 draft. That could create a logjam at the lower levels of the system in 2019. Bubic’s most likely landing spot out of spring training will be low Class A Lexington, but he could move up to Wilmington by midseason.
- Bill Mitchell
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