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Mondesi has a long way to go to match the big league career of his father Raul Mondesi Sr., but he has some bragging rights. While his father never played in the World Series, Mondesi experienced the postseason without ever playing in the majors in the regular season. With starting second baseman Ben Zobrist's pregnant wife's due date set to possibly happen during the World Series, the Royals added Mondesi to the World Series roster, envisioning that he could be an early-inning pinch hitter in National League parks, a pinch runner and a lateinning defensive replacement. Zobrist never had to leave the team, so Mondesi's World Series role was limited. He went 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter, making him the only player to make his big league debut in the World Series. Mondesi has been on a fast track ever since he signed for $2 million in 2011. He has been one of the youngest players in every league he's played in as a pro. The Royals have had few worries that the advanced assignments would harm Mondesi's development because he's supremely confident, but at the same time his speedy development has kept him from ever getting a chance to get comfortable and dominate a league. Mondesi's tools are exceptional, but he's yet to show the ability to put together the consistent stretches that show those tools are being matched by skills. An average runner when he signed, Mondesi has gotten stronger and faster and is now is a plus-plus runner who will turn in top-of-thescale times. At shortstop he's a potentially plus-plus defender with an equally impressive 70 arm. The Royals asked him to play second base sporadically this year to give him some versatility. He handled the move with no issues and projects as at least a excellent defender at second as well. The switch-hitting Mondesi is much less consistent at the plate. When he's locked in, he can lay down a bunt for a hit or crush a home run, but he struggles to put together a consistent approach at-bat after at-bat. He is much too aggressive, struggling to accept that a walk is a positive outcome. There are few players harder for scouts to evaluate than Mondesi because they have to decide how much of his plate discipline issues come from his aggressive promotions (he was four years younger than the average Texas Leaguer) and how much of it is an approach problem that isn't going away. Mondesi's speed and bat speed should give him at least an average hit tool and he has surprising power for a shortstop, but his selectiveness has to improve. With his speed and power, he could turn into a triple machine in Kauffman Stadium. Mondesi missed time in 2015 with a back injury that could best be described as tightness. He worked on stretching exercises, but it is something he'll have to work to keep from becoming a significant long-term issue. Kansas City shortstop Alcides Escobar has two years left before he reaches free agency. That makes it likely that Mondesi will break into Kansas City at second base, although he should still be the team's shortstop of the future after time at Triple-A Omaha in 2016. If he can improve his plate discipline he has a higher upside than Escobar as he has more power with equal speed and similar defensive chops, but Mondesi still has a lot of work to do to reach that ceiling.
The older brother of Indians outfield prospect Bradley Zimmer, Kyle Zimmer is a late-bloomer as a pitcher who moved to the mound in college. Since being selected fifth overall in 2012, Zimmer's career has been notable for the injuries. He had hamstring issues and surgery for bone chips in his elbow in 2012, a tight shoulder in 2013 and shoulder problems in 2014 that led to offseason labrum cleanup and a late start to 2015. Zimmer's stuff took a slight step back in 2015, but it's still frontof- the-rotation stuff. He sat 92-94 mph as a starter and could bump up to 96-97 mph. He locates it well both arm-side and glove-side and keeps it down in the zone. His curveball is still a 70 pitch. He showed reduced feel for it this year but it got more consistent as the season progressed. His fringe-average changeup and slider have always been lesser offerings but they took a step back as well in 2015 as he had less need to use them in shorter outings. Both have flashed average in the past. Zimmer hasn't thrown 130 innings in a season, college or pro. If healthy, he should pitch in Kansas City 2016 but he has to prove he can handle the workload.
Starling was supposed to be a centerpiece of the Royals' rebuilding project. Picked fifth in 2011, Starling, a high school three-sport star, turned down Nebraska football to sign with the Royals then spent much of the past four years buried under the weight of lofty expectations. For much of his pro career, Starling has had too many at-bats where he looked lost. He chased too many pitches but also failed to take advantage of hitters' counts. He still has rough stretches, but he does a better job of recognizing breaking balls and driving balls. Starling's hit tool will likely always be below-average but he can be a very useful big leaguer as a .240 hitter. He's a plus defender who makes it look easy in center field with a plus arm and at least average power. Starling is an above-average runner out of the box who is a better underway. Starling's struggles to make contact make it unlikely he'll ever be an impact big leaguer, but the Royals got production out of Paulo Orlando this past season and Starling should be able to exceed that--Kansas City's love of exceptional defensive outfielders will play in Starling's favor. He was added to the 40-man roster, so a late-season 2016 Kansas City arrival is a solid probability.
Almonte took a big step forward in 2015 and made it to the big leagues as a reliever in a September callup. The callup did not go well thanks to an uncharacteristic home run problem-all six runs he allowed for Kansas City came off of four home runs. His brutal MLB debut notwithstanding, Almonte's stuff gives him a chance to succeed in the big leagues with fringy control and command. He carried his 94-97 mph velocity throughout his minor league starts. Even if his fastball grades as plus, it's his second-best offering behind his 70-grade changeup. The Royals asked Almonte to shelve his changeup at times to focus on improving his curveball. The tactic was successful. Almonte did a better job of staying on top of the pitch,which allowed for more downward action and sharpness. It flashed plus at best and was average on a regular basis. Almonte's control is average but his command is below-average although his delivery doesn't have any glaring issues. Almonte isn't a finished product, but he has the stuff to be a mid-rotation starter. He should return to Triple-A Omaha in 2016 for some additional polish.
For the second straight year the Royals used their first two picks on high school pitchers. Both times Kansas City paired a riskier, higher-ceiling arm with a more polished strike thrower. The 2015 duo-the more-polished Watson and the harderthrowing Ashe Russell-played down the road from each other in Indianapolis in high school. Watson's stock rose significantly once the Vanderbilt commit's fastball jumped from the 86-88 it was in the summer of 2014 to the 90-93 he showed before the draft. Watson is an extremely advanced pitcher for his age who repeats his delivery and has a present plus fastball. Watson pitched at 90-93 mph and touched 95 in his pro debut and there are scouts who think he'll settle at 92-95 mph. His fastball is a power sinker that lives in the bottom of the zone. The Royals asked Watson to limit the use of his potentially above-average slider in favor of a curveball. Watson took to the new pitch quickly, and could develop into a low-80s power curve in time. Watson's changeup took off in instructional league when he threw it regularly. Watson has a chance to have three average to above-average pitches and at least average control, giving him a shot of being a future No. 3 starter. Watson's feel for pitching impresses as much as his stuff. The Royals may hold him back from low Class A Lexington until May, but he's ready for full-season ball.
Russell was long considered one of the best arms in the 2015 high school draft class thanks to an excellent fastball/slider combination. His extremely quick arm and the excellent boring action of his fastball impressed scouts. They also knew that the team drafting Russell would have to live with a flawed delivery. Russell has a darting 92-94 mph fastball that will touch 97 and his slider already flashes plus. But with an uptempo delivery with length in the back and a significant stab, Russell's control and quality of stuff will vary. When he separates his hands too late his upper body will struggle to catch his lower half. When that happens he loses his direction to the plate, his breaking balls become flat and his fastball misses up in the zone. The Royals asked Russell to work on a curveball and use his slider less. The curve is a little sweepy now, which is partly due to his lower arm slot. His changeup is barely even a pitch right now because the Royals want him to focus on his delivery rather than mastering a fourth pitch. Russell has front-line stuff but his timing issues made him hittable in his pro debut. Russell might not be ready for to start in low Class A Lexington, although his spring training will determine his assignment. High BILL MITCHELL
Gasparini has stood out since age 13 and has a chance to develop into the best player born and raised in Italy. He signed for a European-record $1.3 million signing bonus. His pro debut was slowed by a hamstring injury and he started slow in 2015, but he hit .357/.448/.529 with a vastly improved strikeout rate in the second half with Rookie-level Idaho Falls. Gasparini has a number of exceptional tools that started to play in 2015. He's a plus runner with a plus arm and he's starting to tap into potentially average power. There are more questions about whether he will stick at shortstop long-term. He made 35 errors in just 52 games at shortstops and his .871 fielding percentage the worst in the Pioneer League. Gasparini's speed and arm would play well in center field if he can't clean up his defensive issues, but considering his youth and relative inexperience the Royals will work to better his defense. The switch-hitting Gasparini shows similar aptitude from either batter's box. His inexperience shows when recognizing breaking balls, but he has gap power now that should develop into 10-15 home run power. Gasparini is offensively ready for an assignment to low Class A Lexington, which means his glove will have to hurry to catch up. For all-around tools he's second only to Raul Mondesi in the system.
When Strahm arrived at Neosho County (Kan.) CC, he was an 82 mph-throwing lefty out of West Fargo, N.D. As he filled into his 6-foot-4 frame and cleaned up his delivery, he added nearly 10 mph to his fastball and turned into the ace (9-3, 1.91) of the Panthers' staff, leading them to the Junior College World Series. After missing all of 2013 and much of 2014 recovering from Tommy John, the Royals wanted to take it slow with Strahm in 2015, but it started out a little too slow. Although he was stretched out to be ready for 60 pitch outings, Strahm threw seven innings in April. By late June he played his way into the rotation. Strahm's fastball sits at 89-94 mph with an easy, deceptive delivery and average control. He pitch that locks hitters up when he's staying back in his delivery. At other times it becomes a slurvier 78-82 mph offering with a 2-to-8 break with more sweep and less depth than the average slider. Even then he locates it well and it's deadly to lefties. His changeup is a fringy third offering that he doesn't use much yet. The Royals added to Strahm to their 40-man roster this offseason. He'll head to Double-A Northwest Arkansas to start the season. He has a shot at being a No. 3 starter but he should make his debut first as a reliever which could happen in 2016.
Blewett became the first New York high school righthander to go in the top two rounds of a draft since Steve Karsay in 1990. Midway through 2015, Blewett looked like he was going to pitch his way to high Class A Wilmington. Held in extended spring training until late May, Blewett blitzed Sally League hitters in his first eight starts. As July wore on, Blewett labored through August and September and his ERA nearly doubled. Early on, Blewett was filling the strike zone with a 92-95 mph fastball. He was aggressive in the zone unlike many young pitchers who like to nibble on the edges. His 12-to-6 curveball is also a potentially above-average offering that he can command. As Blewett wore down, the fastball backed up, his control wavered and his curve lacked the same depth. He still flashed 94-95 once in a while but he was sitting 90-92 and his fastball lacked the same crispness. Blewett flashes a fringe average changeup but he doesn't show any confidence or conviction in it yet. Blewett still the makings of a mid-rotation starter. He has an excellent frame, a plus fastball and an above-average curveball. Blewett learned in his first full pro season that he'll need more stamina to hold up to the demanding pro season. He might not move to high Class A immediately, but he should get there before long.
When he was promoted to Kansas City, Cuthbert became the 14th Nicaraguanborn player to play in the big leagues and the first from Corn Island. Corn Island is actually a pair of islands located 50 miles off the coast of Nicaragua that are home to less than 10,000 inhabitants. Cuthbert's callup cost him a trip to the Futures Game. Instead, he hit a single in each half of a July 7 doubleheader in his big league debut. Cuthbert has been young everywhere he's played. He reached the big leagues as a 22-year-old. His tools are solid, but he impressed the Royals' big league staff with his steadiness. Although he hasn't shown more than fringe-average power, he fits the Royals' philosophy because he puts the ball in play consistently. Cuthbert battles, puts the ball in play and should end up as a .270-.280 hitter with solid on-base skills. He's an average defender at third base despite a thick lower half thanks to surprising agility and an accurate, average arm. Scouts have long thought he would outgrow third base, but his body doesn't look much different now than it did as a 19-year-old. Cuthbert isn't going to push Mike Moustakas aside at third base, but he has shown enough that Kansas City is comfortable with him serving as a ready backup in Triple-A in case of a Moustakas injury.
The brother of long-time big league utilityman and one-time Royal Emilio Bonifacio, the younger Bonifacio started to hit for the power that scouts expected. In his second full season at Double-A Northwest Arkansas Bonifacio tied for fourth in the league with 17 home runs and tied for fifth with 49 extra-base hits. Bonifacio has transformed his approach and swing over the past two years, trading a potentially plus hit tool for a plus power tool. Bonifacio used to wear out the right-center field gap. Now he's narrowed his stance and raised his hands to better handle inside fastballs. That has paid off in better power numbers, but he's also become pull-happy and chases pitches off the outer half. Bonifacio is now a below-average runner with a tick-below-average range. His above-average arm fits in right field but he needs to improve his accuracy. Bonifacio won't turn 23 until the middle of 2016, and he'll still be one of the younger players in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League.
A walk-on at Texas-Martin who became a pro prospect when his fastball jumped from 85 mph to 90-plus, Mills quickly shook off the rust from his 2013 Tommy John surgery to hit his spots with four pitches in a solid season at high Class A Wilmington. Mills' combination of plus control and ability to mix his pitches fits very well in Wilmington's spacious park. Mills will sit 90-92 and touch 94 regularly with his fastball and his changeup is a plus offering with a 12-15 mph separation from his fastball. His slider and curveball both are average on good nights. Mills throws slightly across his body, which adds a little deception. He projects as a fast-moving back-of-the-rotation starter. The jump to Double-A Northwest Arkansas will be a good challenge. He could be an emergency big league starter option by the end of 2016.
While his low Class A Lexington teammate Scott Blewett started great and finished poorly, Griffin, the second first-round pick in the Royals' 2014 draft, rallied after an awful start. Through the first three months, Griffin had a 7.14 ERA and had allowed 75 hits in 58 innings. After Aug. 1, Griffin posted a 3.22 ERA with 48 hits in 44 ? innings. Griffin needs to be precise because he's a lefty with a clean delivery but without eye-popping stuff. Griffin's success is based more on angle and location than plus stuff. His curveball's improved consistency played a big part in his strong finish because he tightened it and started throwing it for strikes more often. It is a potentially average offering. Griffin's changeup has more potential than the curveball and will flash above-average with late fade. Griffin repeats his smooth delivery and has the potential to eventually have above-average control, which he will need to reach his ceiling as a No. 4 starter. Griffin looks ready to start 2016 in high Class A Wilmington.
Even though he left after the all-star break, O'Hearn led the low Class A South Atlantic League with 19 home runs. He's hit 40 home runs in his first season and a half as a pro, but had just 47 extra-base hits in 180 college games. Watching O'Hearn now, it's unfathomable that he was ever was a singles hitter. O'Hearn has plus-plus raw power and plus productive power. The hit tool has to catch up to the power. While he has a healthy confidence in the batter's box, he could tone down the aggressiveness at times. O'Hearn looks for pitches to drive, but it wouldn't hurt him to shorten up when he's facing a two-strike count. His swing is big, with a significant load and he uses his lower half well. O'Hearn is an average defender at first with good hands but limited range. He's an emergency option in left field but he's well below-average there thanks to below-average speed. O'Hearn's power that profiles at first base, but he'll need to cut the strikeouts ensure he hits for enough average to get to his power.
There was no easier velocity in the 2015 draft than Staumont's. He tickles triple-digits regularly with a low-effort delivery. Staumont sits 96-98 and has touched 102 mph with a four-seamer. It grades out as an easy top-of-the-scale 80 on the scouting card. In a system that has long coveted power relievers, Staumont throws harder and does it easier than anyone else wearing a Royals uniform. He also has thrown a 96-99 mph two-seamer, but the Royals want to see him master the four-seamer first. Staumont's 82-85 mph 12-to-6 curveball also grades out at plus-plus when he stays on top of it. When he does that, it has a diving finish that would make a Stuka proud, but it's inconsistent. While his delivery is clean, he has long struggled to throw strikes consistently in part because he hangs over his rear leg in his windup which makes it tough to keep his timing. He will miss by feet at times. Staumont will never need to paint corners but he can't keep walking nearly a batter an inning. Staumont showed some improvement as the season progressed. He'll head to low Class A Lexington to start 2016 but he could move quickly from there. The only thing keeping Staumont from a speedy arrival in Kansas City is consistency.
There are a lot of reasons to worry about Vallot's chances of reaching his lofty ceiling. His body is already large for a catcher. He's struggled to hit for average and has plenty of work to do as a receiver because he struggles to catch balls cleanly. Vallot has big power potential and an excellent throwing arm. As an 18-year-old in full-season ball, Vallot averaged a home run every 25 at-bats. He should have hit even more but he was too often late on hittable fastballs. Vallot has plenty of bat speed but he too often seemed to be worried about hitting breaking balls and tried to adjust and catch up to fastballs with poor results. He needs to start his swing faster to rip fastballs and to cut his 31-percent strikeout rate. While Vallot will show an above-average 1.9-second pop time, his accuracy leaves much to be desired, which explains his 19-percent caught stealing rate. His size makes it hard for him to block balls nimbly. Vallot was younger than many 2015 draftees, and he'll return to low Class A Lexington where this time he'll be more age appropriate.
There were many times when evaluators who saw Eibner rack up another 0-for-4 with 2 strikeouts could sit and daydream about what he would look like as a righthanded reliever with a power arm. But Eibner's dream was to be a position player who played every day, not a pitcher. Injuries and strikeouts have caused plenty of detours but it looks like Eibner is about to prove his faith in his bat was warranted. Eibner missed time in 2015 with hamstring and thumb injuries, but in between he had his best offensive season as a pro thanks to better pitch recognition and more aggressiveness early in counts. Eibner fits the Royals' needs for Kauffman Stadium as a plus defender in center who can play all three outfield positions with a plus arm. He's an above-average runner who could be more aggressive on the bases. Eibner jumped on fastballs better while demonstrating why scouts have long thought he had 15-plus home run power. Eibner has always been a streaky hitter with a high-maintenance swing. When he's on, he can carry a team, but he's also just as prone to hit .150 for three to four weeks. That works against him contributing as a role player in Kansas City because his swing doesn't respond to sporadic work, but as a member of the 40-man roster he'll head to spring training with a shot at a big league job. In the long-term, Eibner could fit on the Royals' roster in a similar one to the role Paulo Orlando filled last season.
A bargain of a $45,000 signing out of the Dominican Republic, Fernandez struggled for the first time as a pro in his first try at low Class A Lexington in 2014. Through a lot of bullpens and side work Fernandez shortened the length of his arm stroke in the beginning of his delivery. That improved the consistency of his delivery, which paid off in improved command. He took a little off his fastball to try to throw strikes early in the season but by midseason he was sitting 92-94 mph and touching 96 while hitting his spots. Because he's just 6 feet tall, Fernandez's fastball gets flat when he's not getting full extension. Fernandez had always had a potentially average changeup, but his curveball is a sloppy mid-70s breaker. Fernandez's lack of a breaking ball has always been the biggest impediment to being a significant starter, so the Royals were excited when he picked up a much harder 80-83 mph slider during instructional league. The slider fits his lower arm slot better and has more of a plane change, giving him a chance to have an average breaking ball, although he needs to prove he can throw it in games. He's ready for high Class A Wilmington.
One of the keys to the Royals' big league success has been international scouting director Rene Francisco and the team's international scouts' ability to find righthander after righthander who sign for modest price tags. It worked with Yordano Ventura, Kelvin Herrera and Miguel Almonte and it looks to be happening again with Garabito, a $50,000 bargain in 2012. In his U.S. debut, Garabito showed the ability to throw strikes and locate his fastball and his curveball. He pitched at 91-92 mph but touches 95, and there are evaluators who believe he'll eventually sit 93-95. He shows a good feel for spinning his curveball. Garabito's developing changeup has much further to go. Even if Garabito's fastball doesn't gain another tick, he has the stuff to be a future No. 4 starter. If he keeps getting stronger, he has a chance to be more than that. With his present ability to throws strikes, Garabito could make a case for a spot in low Class A Lexington in 2016.
Playing on the same teams with Raul A. Mondesi, Torres, a natural shortstop himself, has often had to play elsewhere. In the long run that may help his case for a big league job because he's developed defensive versatility for a possible future utility role. Torres is an excellent defender with soft hands and smooth infield actions. He is an above-average defender at shortstop with a plus arm and is a plus defender at second or third. Offensively, the switch-hitting Torres puts the ball in play enough to project as a fringeaverage hitter, albeit with well-below-average power. He looks more comfortable from the right side of the plate, but his lefty swing is usable. A fringe-average runner, Torres has enough hitting ability to be a potential second-division regular thanks to his excellent glove. Still, his likely role is a versatile infielder who provides quality infield defense. With Mondesi ticketed for Triple-A Omaha in 2016, the Royals could leave Torres at Double-A to let him get more regular time at shortstop or he could continue sharing time at second base and shortstop with Mondesi in Triple-A.
When Royals' coaches and scouts watch a young hitter the first building block they look for is how well he handles a quality fastball. Yes, they will have to learn plate discipline and how to discern when to play off a quality breaking ball or handle a good changeup, but none of it matters if a hitter can't catch up to and cause damage to a quality fastball. Fukofuka, one of the youngest players in the 2013 draft, has added enough weight and strength to start to handle fastballs that he struggled with over first two seasons. After getting the bat knocked out of his hands at Rookie-level Burlington in 2014, he turned a corner in 2015 at Rookie-level Idaho Falls. In his previous two seasons combined, he'd hit 11 doubles, nine triples and two home runs. His newfound strength is manifesting itself in doubles right now but should eventually turn into average or better power. He's going to need that power to continue improving because, while he plays some center field now, he's expected to end up an above-average left fielder with a below-average arm. He's an above-average runner now--and has stolen double-digit bases in two of his three seasons-- but doesn't have the range Kansas City looks for in its center fielders. He'll jump to Lexington in 2016.
Gallagher is nothing like the player the Royals expected when they drafted him. While he is big and strong, he's always been more comfortable simply making contact rather than driving the ball. He's the Royals' best defensive catcher in the minors and is even a viable emergency callup option because of his big league-average receiving and blocking. He has an above-average arm, although his throwing mechanics aren't flawless--he threw out 29 percent of basestealers in 2015. The Royals hope Gallagher will put together more situational at-bats. While they don't mind when he keeps his swing short and aims for contact in most situations, they would like to see him get more aggressive on taking a bigger swing to drive the ball when the situation warrants. The move to Double-A Northwest Arkansas and away from Wilmington's pitcher's park might help speed that transition. He projects as a backup catcher because of his defense, but could be more if his latent power shows up more often.
The final spot in the Royals' bullpen coming out of spring training in 2015 came down to Flynn vs. Ryan Madson. Manager Ned Yost was inclined to go with Flynn and send Ryan Madson to Triple-A, but Madson's contract allowed him to sign elsewhere if sent to the minors. Just one outing later, Flynn was lost for the season to a torn oblique. A starter throughout his minor league career, the 6-foot-7 Flynn gets downhill plane on a 90-93 mph average sinker that he pairs with an above-average changeup. It played up to 93-94 more consistently working out of the pen. Flynn has average control and attacks hitters with his fastball. His curveball and slider are both fringy. Flynn's fastball-changeup combo has made him nearly as effective against righthanders as lefties, so as a reliever he's more of a middle-innings option rather than a specialized matchup lefty. Fully recovered, Flynn will compete for a spot in the bullpen.
The most unexpected season in the minors had to belong to Jose "Cafecito" Martinez. The Royals signed him as a minor league free agent largely because Royals farm director Ronnie Richardson had been impressed with Martinez's makeup from their time together in the Braves' organization. Ticketed for Double-A, Martinez made his Triple-A debut instead when Paulo Orlando made the big league roster. He set a modern-day Pacific Coast League record with a .384 batting average, leading the minors in batting average and on-base percentage (.461). The season may seem flukish, but Martinez was among the Royals' leaders in hard-hit percentage all year and he is a one-time significant prospect--he was the White Sox' No. 7 prospect way back in 2007. Martinez has a smooth, flat, line-drive swing. He also has 10-12 home run power. With that kind of power, he's going have to prove he's a plus hitter at least to be a big leaguer, as he is an average defender in left or right field with a tick-above average arm that was once plus. The Royals added Martinez to the 40-man roster so they are willing to give him a shot to prove last year wasn't a fluke.
One of the younger players in the 2012 draft, Escalera struggled in Lexington in 2014. The Royals were encouraged by well he responded in a return to the Legends. He put together much better at-bats. He showed a willingness to see a pitch beyond strike one, started to recognize breaking balls and worked to get to a fastball he could drive. Then he was promoted to high Class A Wilmington and seemed to forget what he learned, aggressively swinging and hoping he ran into a fastball. Escalera has good hands at the plate and developing fringe-average power, but it won't matter unless he puts together more consistent atbats. A plus-plus runner when he was drafted, Escalera has slowed down but to average speed. His lower half is getting thicker which is a concern as he's a fringy defender in center right now who needs to have better reads and routes.
Signed for $3 million as part of the Royals' 2011 international class that included Raul Mondesi, Hernandez has developed much more slowly than Mondesi, but he has made strides. Like Alfredo Escalera, he showed plenty of improvement in a return to low Class A Lexington, but then got way too aggressive after a promotion to Wilmington. When Hernandez is swinging well, he's driving balls to the gaps with a smooth swing and using his lower half. When he gets too aggressive like he was in Wilmington, he relies entirely on his arms in his swing. When he's in a funk he'll stop staying back on his back foot. He'll spin off with his stride foot pointed toward first base and his back foot pointed to third. Hernandez has the hands and bat speed to be an above-average hitter with average power, but he doesn't have the consistency. He's maintained his average speed and is a solid-average defender in either corner with an average arm.
Aracena is generously listed at 5-foot-8 but the questions about his size are answered with a love of how he plays the game. Aracena has earned the nickname "Furacalito" because he models his game after fellow short, speed shortstop Rafael Furcal. Aracena signed for $850,000. The Royals were confident enough in his makeup and his advanced understanding of the game to send him straight to the Rookie-level Arizona League instead of the Dominican Summer League. His debut was slowed by a groin injury that also led to an abscess. He's gotten it fixed and should be fine for spring training. Unlike most short infielders, Aracena can stay at shortstop because he has a plus arm to go with his above-average range and plus speed. Aracena carries some present strength for his size. He's more than a slap-and-run hitter and should have 5-8 home-run power eventually. He projects as a savvy leadoff hitter with on-base skills and defensive value. He may be ready for low Class A Lexington as an 18-year-old.
The Royals spent $2.25 million to land Matias' combination of tools and athleticism. Matias impressed international scouts with his bat speed, power potential, plus-plus arm and a chance to stick in center field. The concern is if his hit tool will develop enough to let his very loud tools play. Matias is an aboveaverage runner now but depending on how his body develops he might grow into a right fielder. Matias will show a short, simple swing when he's locked in but he also gets too pull-happy and will swing and miss too much when he's struggling. He's so young that there are a lot of potential avenues for Matias going forward. If he can stay in center field, he's a potential impact prospect, but he also has enough power potential to be a solid right fielder. Matias missed instructional league with a broken hamate bone but should be ready to make his 2016 debut on schedule, likely in the Dominican Summer League.
If Matias is the Royals' big swing at a high-risk, high-reward prospect in the 2015 class, Guzman fills the other end of the spectrum. By signing both of them the Royals exceeded their bonus allotment and will face international signing restrictions in 2016 and 2017. Where Matias is already physically impressive, Guzman, signed for $1.5 million, lacks present physicality and strength. Guzman has plenty of athleticism and his baseball skills were some of the most advanced in the 2015 international class. Guzman should be able to remain at shortstop as a pro as he has the actions, hands and footwork teams look for when they write a 6 by a player's name in the lineup card. He's a below-average runner right now, but there is some thought that as he gets stronger he'll speed up, much like Raul Mondesi did for Kansas City. He has a quick initial burst to go with an average arm and a quick release. At the plate, the switchhitter shows some understanding for working counts. His lefthanded swing is ahead of his righthanded swing right now.
No one has been more puzzling over the past two years than Dozier. When the Royals drafted Dozier, they believed he was a hit over power third baseman who would move quickly with plenty of doubles and professional at-bats. And for the first season and a half of his pro career, that's what he was. When he hit Double-A everything fell apart. Dozier tweaked his swing to try to become more pull-happy and hit for more power, but it made his swing longer and caused him to collapse with his backside. He no longer has the timing or the rhythm he once had at the plate. Too often he's late on fastballs, which led him to start cheating with his hands and his hips. This makes him an easy mark against offspeed offerings. His defense has suffered as well. He has become more mechanical with his hands. His arm has average strength but below-average accuracy. There is reason to believe the tools are still in there to be an everyday third baseman, but Dozier has taken two steps back in the past year and a half.
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