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BA Grade: 65. Risk: Very High Tool Grades: Hit: 55. Power: 60. Run: 60. Fielding: 70. Arm: 60. Track Record: Witt Jr. topped his father by one draft slot when the Royals picked him second overall in 2019. The elder Witt, a righthander from Oklahoma, was the third overall pick in 1985 and went on to pitch 16 years in the big leagues. 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. v 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 and hit just .262 with one home run in 37 games. 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 has 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. Considering that he turns 20 in June, early-season success could result in a move to high Class A Wilmington by midsummer.
BA Grade: 60. Risk: High Tool Grades: Fastball: 60. Curveball: 50. Slider: 60. Changeup: 60. Control: 55. 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.
BA Grade: 55. Risk: High Tool Grades: Fastball: 55. Slider: 50. Changeup: 70. Control: 55. 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 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.
BA Grade: 55. Risk: High Tool Grades: Fastball: 55. Slider: 60. Changeup: 45. Control: 50. 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 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.
BA Grade: 50. Risk: High Tool Grades: Hit: 55. Power: 45. Run: 60. Fielding: 60. Arm: 50. 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.
BA Grade: 55. Risk: Extreme Tool Grades: Hit: 55. Power: 60. Run: 50. Fielding: 55. Arm: 50. 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 2nd. 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 for his age, especially considering he was playing against older competition. He’s got a good work ethic and 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 keep down the strikeouts. He has 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: Pena 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.
BA Grade: 45. Risk: Medium Tool Grades: Hit: 45. Power: 50. Run: 55. Fielding: 55. Arm: 60. 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 above-average 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.
BA Grade: 50. Risk: High Tool Grades: Fastball: 50. Curveball: 50. Changeup: 60. Control: 55. 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.
BA Grade: 50. Risk: High Tool Grades: Fastball: 50. Curveball: 50. Changeup: 60. Control: 55. 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.
BA Grade: 50. Risk: Very High Tool Grades: Hit: 55. Power: 50. Run: 45. Fielding: 60. Arm: 55. 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 defense, 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.
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