Kansas City Royals’ 2021 Pre-Season Top 50 Prospects

Nate shares his top 50 Royals' dynasty prospects.

As we prepare for the season ahead, the Pitcher List staff will be creating profiles for every fantasy-relevant player for 2021. Players will be broken up by team and role through starting pitchers, bullpen, lineup, and prospects. You can access every article as it comes out in our Player Profiles 2021 hub here.

 

The Royals’ system is loaded with talented arms, and ranking them is a tall order. There could well be some arms not listed here capable of making the big leagues.  (I had about a dozen pitchers I felt fine putting into this top 50 that didn’t make the “cut”.)

The Royals may not have the luxury of buying pitching like other organizations do, so they may be wise to try and grow their own and they have spent plenty of draft capital doing just that.  Such a philosophy isn’t conducive to supplying dynasty owners with a lot of high priority prospects, but there are arms here that are going to be fantasy relevant and some very soon.  How it all shakes out, who lands in what roles, is a little trickier.

The Royals are intent on giving their highly drafted college arms first crack at the big league rotation, but as you will see, there are more than enough possibilities nipping at their heels if it goes south.  Unfortunately for dynasty owners, there are going to be some talented pitchers, probably capable of landing big league rotation spots, who may just lose out on the musical chairs game.  Navigating talent vs realistic possibilities is a tricky act here.

This is my best shot at lining these prospects up in the manner I’d advise we prioritize as dynasty assets.

 

(* denotes player is currently on the 40-man roster)

 

1. SS Bobby Witt Jr.

 

Age: 20

Highest Level: Rookie (AZL)

The prep (TX) shortstop selected #2 overall in the 2019 draft is one of the exciting young prospects in baseball and a potential elite fantasy asset. Witt’s power has never been a question, but his approach at the plate concerned some when he started to exude too much swing and miss during his pro debut, but those questions subsided after his ’19 fall, ’20 alternate site, and instruct work this year.

Witt is a true shortstop with a good arm, and also capable of third base. Double-A may be where he starts 2021, but a shot at the bigs sooner than most prep prospects probably awaits. Witt is a plus runner, but it is hard to tell how much that will be a part of his game at this point. He still needs to prove himself in the upper leagues, but dynasty owners can feel relatively safe placing Witt amongst the candidates for the next #1 prospect in all of baseball.

ETA: 2022

 

2. LHP Daniel Lynch*

 

Age: 24

Highest Level: Single-A+ (Car)

Lynch is a great example of how quickly things can develop, even for a college pitching prospect.  At Virginia, Lynch was a pretty average pitcher in terms of results, more of a solid across the board kind of prospect, but he made gains fast.  6’6″ 195 lb, lanky with a fastball now hitting upper-90s.  The Royals have helped mold their 34th pick of the 2018 draft into a potential frontline starter.

Lynch threw 78.1 IP at High-A in 2019, accruing an 8.85 K/9, 2.64 BB/9,  and 1.26 WHIP.  His best secondary pitch, a slider with late action, has gone from work-in-project to potential plus major league offering. Tossing in an average curveball, Lynch will get his turn soon in the bigs. Lynch is worth owning in most dynasty leagues and formats, with an arrow pointing up since draft day and positive reports from the alternate site and instructs in 2020.

ETA: 2021

 

3. LHP Asa Lacy

 

Age: 21

Highest Level: N/A

The Royals continued to load up on college pitching prospects when they selected Texas A&M’s Lacy with the 4th overall pick in June.  Many felt Lacy was the best pitching prospect in the draft, including yours truly.  6’4″ 215 lb with deception and four pitches all at least flashing plus, Lacy has a chance to move quickly and develop into a front-end starter.  He solidified his place at the top of the draft after four 2020 starts where he gave up 2 ER and struck out 46 batters.

His fastball sits mid-90s and can tick up.  His slider is his wipeout pitch, and his change and curveball have chances to be plus as well.  His command is fine, but his raw stuff may hide some work he will need to do in these regards as competition increases and better hitters are less likely to chase.  Lacy’s upside, paired with the relative safety top college pitchers have given fantasy owners makes him as good an investment in a pitching prospect you’re gonna find.

ETA: 2022

 

4. RHP Jackson Kowar

 

Age: 24

Highest Level: Double-A (TL)

The Royals drafted both of Florida’s top pitchers in the first round of the 2018 draft, Brady Singer and Kowar.  Kowar has always kind of been Singer’s Robin but he has the best pitch of the two.  Kowar’s changeup is fantastic.  His two-seamer sits mid-90s while his curveball may be gaining needed refinement.  6’5″ 190 lb, Kowar has the starter’s build and has proven he can handle the workload. Kowar proved himself at AA in 2019, as it was his best pro stop yet.

Not yet added to the 40-man roster, and passed over for a call-up last season, Kowar should be on schedule to debut in 2021.  His last refinement is better fastball and curveball command; perhaps the Royals want to see some of that in AAA first?

A nasty changeup is the best tool a pitcher can have in my opinion, and I’m invested in Kowar, but there is work to be done and reports from instructs seemed to lean towards that work still in progress.  Probably not worthy of the top echelon of fantasy pitching prospects at this point, but he has a chance to outproduce many of them if things come together, and relatively soon.  Kowar could be a sneaky value play for dynasty owners but does have some added risk.

ETA: 2021

 

5. COF Erick Pena

 

Age: 18

Highest Level: N/A

The top J2 signing of the Royals in 2019, the young Dominican has an exciting, projectable offensive profile.  Lauded for his swing, contact abilities, and the feel of more power to come as he fills out his 6’3″ 190 lb frame (which is already starting to happen), Pena has caught as much buzz as any young prospect yet to make a pro debut.  Reports from fall instructs claimed he made improvements in the swing and miss department and has bumped up his defensive grade.

Pena projects as a right fielder with an average arm, which will put more importance on offensive development. He may be able to chip in some stolen bases, but it won’t be a big part of his profile as his speed is average at best. Still a very raw prospect with lots of ways it can still go, Pena is a very risky dynasty play, but taking a swing at his upside is as good as most young J2 prospects get.

ETA: 2025

 

6. COF Edward Olivares*

(No longer “prospect/rookie” eligible by MLB standards having exceeded days on active roster limit, but he is yet to exceed 130 MLB AB which is the standard used in most dynasty leagues.)

 

Age: 25

Highest Level: MLB

A 2014 J2 signing of the Blue Jays in 2014, the young Venezuelan may have found a place to become a major leaguer after his second trade.  The Royals acquired him for Trevor Rosenthal from the Padres last August and Olivares made the most of his opportunity, hitting .274/.342/.440 with 2 HR in 62 MLB at-bats.

Olivares has continued to overperform, initially not highly touted, he has gotten better every step of the way.  In 2019, Olivares slashed .283/.349/.453 with 18 HR and 35 SB during his first AA try.  Pitch recognition struggles lead to some high K rates, but he may be showing improvement there at the big league level.

Once considered a defensively below-average corner outfielder type, the 6’2″ 185 lb Olivares is now capable of manning all three spots well.  Olivares may be proving he can fill a nice fourth outfielder role for a big-league team, but his MO has always been taking his game to another level.

With the potential to contribute in most fantasy categories, Olivares may still be a sneaky add to your dynasty roster despite his success in Kansas City.  I have been feeling out his owners in my leagues as a future everyday player could be had here, and soon.

ETA: 202o debut

 

7. OF Kyle Isbel

 

Age: 24

Highest Level: Single-A+ (Car)

Coming out as a 3rd rounder in 2018 from UNLV, Isbel was thought to have been starting to tap into some power.  At 5’11” 183 lb and 14 HR in 483 pro at-bats, it’s debatable if it will become much of his profile.  He only mustered a .216/.282/.361 in 194 High-A at-bats in 2019 after a great 2018 debut, but was dealing with injuries including a hamate bone.

Isbel showed well during the 2019 AFL season, where he went .315/.429/.438 and 1 HR in 73 AB.  He’s a plus runner and seems to be settling in defensively having moved from 2B in college.  Dynasty owners may find an asset in the high contact hitter with speed.  2021, with a presumed bump up the ladder, will get us closer to finding out.

ETA: 2022

 

8. IF Brady McConnell

 

Age: 22

Highest Level: Rookie (Pioneer)

The Royals selected another prep (FL) infielder during the second round of the 2019 draft when they took McConnell 44th overall.  Prep infielders drafted in this range have been fantasy longshots, with roughly 11.1% of them becoming average 12-team assets, but have produced some top tier pieces.  6’3″ 195, McConnell exudes plus raw power and speed which could make for an intriguing fantasy prospect.

McConnell’s debut .212/.288/.400 line may not tell the whole story as he battled injury and was not the same upon return.  The raw power showed up belting 5 HR in 160 AB.  McConnell is still raw with swing and miss too much a part of his hit tool.  Dynasty owners will want to watch him develop, as a utility type big leaguer or more may come out.  McConnell is athletic and capable of bouncing around the diamond.

ETA: 2004

 

9. OF Khalil Lee*

 

Age: 22

Highest Level: Double-A (TL)

A third-round pick in the 2016 draft as a prep (VA), Lee is knocking on the big league door.  Considered a two-way prospect going into his draft, the Royals chose to develop the athletically gifted Lee as a hitter, and it has gone…ok.  At 5’10” 192, Lee is compact, fast, and displays the big ex-pitchers arm in the outfield proving himself capable of any spot in the grass.

Lee is still more athlete than refined hitter but he has been getting by.  As a 21-year-old getting his second crack at double-A in the Texas League, he hit .264 /.363/.372 with 8 HR and 53 SB.  Lee struck out too much, 154 times in 470 AB.  The news from this fall’s instructs reported making pitch selection improvements and a belief more power could come.

There is a fast explosive athlete here and the Royals seem determined to make a big-league player here.  If the bat can become even a serviceable one at the highest level, Lee is going to offer a power/speed profile coveted in many dynasty formats.

ETA: 2021

 

10. COF Seuly Matias

 

Age: 22

Highest Level: Single-A+ (Car)

Power, power, power.  Matias was part of Kansas City’s 2015 J2 as a young Dominican with a short power stroke and hit potential.  After 31 HR in 2018 while in Lexington, Matias started getting a lot of buzz, including my own aggressive investments.  The hit potential seems pretty capped, but a future MLB slugger could be had.

2019 in High-A seemed like a complete disaster as he hit only .148 with 4 HR in 189 AB, but he was playing with a broken hand.  Perhaps a relief in some aspects, it may also be troubling this isn’t his first broken hand problem.

A prototypical power-hitting right fielder at 6’3″ 200 and a big arm, Matias’ fantasy appeal is limited.  Still young and working on the swing and miss concerns most sluggers his age face, he could still become a viable power category producer but draining in the ratio departments.

ETA: 2021-22

 

11. RHP Jonathan Bowlan

 

Age: 24

Highest Level: Single-A (Car)

The Royals took Bowlan 58th overall out of Memphis during the 2018 draft.  6’6″ 248 lbs, Bowlan has slimmed down since his college days and looks the part of a future major league pitcher.  Bowlan gets on top of hitters quickly with his mid-90s fastball and has two potential out pitches in a slider and a changeup, the slider being the most advanced of the two.

Bowlan showed extremely well during his 2019 High-A season and was at the alternate site this year.  He faces a lot of competition in this system but will push for major league innings, whether as a starter or reliever.  He may be a year away, but a strong 2021 in upper levels and Bowlan could put himself in the same category as the bigger pitching prospects here, so dynasty owners will want to watch.

ETA: 2022

 

12. OF Brewer Hicklen

 

Age: 25

Highest Level: Singel-A+ (Car)

The Royals did well with their 7th round pick in 2017 selecting the two-sport Hicklen out of UAB.  6’2″ 208 lbs Hicklen has been a little behind for his age and is yet to play against upper-level competition, but a nice power/speed fourth outfielder-type path exists for him.  More of a line drive, patient, willing to take a walk, contact over selling out for power approach.  Hicklen also stole 39 bases in 2019.  Hicklen is a fine defender capable of all three spots, Hicklen is a name to know and perhaps worthy of a roster spot in large leagues.

ETA: 2021

 

13. 2B Michael Massey

 

 

Age: 23

Highest Level: Rookie (App)

Massey was the fourth-round pick of the Royals in 2019 out of Illinois.  6′ 190 lb with good defensive range and enough arm he could probably play a passable left side of the infield, Massey’s loudest skill is his hit tool.  Using an all fields approach, with a good eye, and some pop, Massey may have a chance to be more than a MLB utility/bench bat.

Considered to be a high baseball IQ guy, Massey may be a bit under the radar.  He is entering his 23-year-old season and yet to play beyond rookie ball, but I don’t think anyone inside the Royals would be surprised he becomes an MLB piece.  Massey never hit below .317 in college.

His 2019 pro debut results are a bit misleading as he struggled through a back injury, but he wasn’t a deficit, hitting .276/.339/.399 with 5 HR in 42 games.  Massey, along with Cleveland’s Owen Miller are two of my favorite sneaky dynasty prospects as you shouldn’t have to pay much or anything for them and there is an offensive upside capable of nice profit if they run with an opportunity.

ETA: 2022

 

14. SS Nick Loftin

 

Age: 22

Highest Level: N/A

Loftin had an impressive college career at Baylor hitting .311 with a .883 OPS three years as a starter.  6’1″ 185, Loftin doesn’t possess any overwhelming skills but has an overall package capable of becoming a nice major leaguer.  Probably a good enough defender to stay up the middle with more of a contact-oriented, top-of-the-order, high-on-base offensive skillset, it’s questionable if he’s got it in him to become a fantasy game-changer.

Loftin doesn’t offer much in the way of power and doesn’t steal many bases.  Lauded as more of an all-around baseball player than some tooled-up prospect set to do damage, an expensive dynasty investment doesn’t seem warranted at this point, but he is skilled enough to keep an eye on his 2021 pro debut, and could fit the mold for a nice deep league piece down the road.

ETA: 2022-23

 

15. RHP Ronald Bolanos*

 

Age: 23

Highest Level: MLB

A 2016 J2 signee out of Cuba by the Padres, he and Franchy Cordero were traded for Tim Hill this season.  Bolanos, 6’3″ 204 lb went from High-A to 19.1 MLB IP in 2019, starting three games and two outings of multiple inning relief.  He also made two starts for the Royals in 2020 in what was more of an opener’s type roll.

Bolanos’ future role is unclear and with the young highly touted arms in the system, the bullpen is most likely, but Bolanos has some electric stuff.  Bolanos throws multiple versions of a fastball at varying velocities, the highest being mid-90s, lowest high-80s.  He also throws two high spin-rate breaking balls; a slower curveball and a mid-80s slider.  Controlling his arsenal and keeping down the walks has been the biggest hurdle.

Regardless of what his role turns out to be, the arsenal is enough to keep my dynasty watch list interest.

ETA: 2019 debut

 

16. LHP Austin Cox

 

Age: 23

Highest Level: Single-A+ (Car)

Cox made some quick jumps coming out of Mercer, finding command and consistency he lacked in college.  Drafted in the 5th round of the 2018 draft, Cox found himself in top-10 territory after 2019.  IN 55.1 Low-A IP Cox went 2.77 ERA 1.25 WHIP 8.46 K/9 2.60 BB/9.  Cox commands his low to mid-90s fastball well and has a plus+ curveball with a progressing changeup.

Listed at 6’4″ 185 lb, Cox has the frame to handle a starter’s role.  In most other systems a dynasty roster spot may be worthwhile, but in Kansas City and the arms ahead of him, it makes it tricky.  Most likely just a name to know at this point, but not because of lack of talent.

ETA: 2022

 

17. LHP Angel Zerpa*

 

Age: 21

Highest Level: Rookie (App)

A 2016 J2 signing out of Venezuala, Zerpa was added to the Royals’ 40-man roster this offseason to protect from the Rule-5 draft.  Listed at 6′ 175 lb, there is no way he weighs 175 lbs, he has more of a relief pitcher’s build to him, but the stuff looks big league.  A low-90s fastball with two really nice secondaries, a slider with a lot run from his more than 3/4 arm slot, and a changeup the organization has lauded.

According to Dayton Moore, the Royal’s GM, he will be rising fast and should be considered along the other top arms of the system.  An addition of a pitcher this inexperienced (only 168 pro IP in three seasons) speaks to how the Royals feel about him and he will definitely be on my watch list.

ETA: 2023

 

18. RHP Josh Staumont*

(No longer “prospect/rookie” eligible by MLB standards having exceeded days on active roster limit, but he is yet to exceed 50 MLB IP which is the standard used in most dynasty leagues.)

 

Age: 27

Highest Level: MLB

The Royals second-round pick in 2015 out of Div II Azusa Pacific has always had a 70 grade or better sinking, triple-digit fastball.  Coming up he used it and a nice curveball to produce some gaudy numbers; 11.75 K/9 and 7.01 BB/9.

The fastball is easy coming out of his 6’3″ 200 lb frame leaving one to think the command shouldn’t be so hard, and that may be coming true.  In 45 MLB IP, Staumont has put up his best walk rate; 5.20 BB/9, while maintaining a 10.40 K/9.  If this trend continues, Staumont could become a high leverage mainstay in Kansas City providing dynasty owners with Ks holds and/or saves, if it doesn’t get better, there may not be much meat on the bone here.

ETA: 2021 debut

 

19. C Sebastian Rivero*

 

Age: 22

Highest Level:  Triple-A (PCL)

A 2015 J2 signing out of Venezuela, Rivero has quickly, especially for a catcher, ascended onto the 40-man roster.  6’1″ 195, Rivero is a very advanced backstop for his age.  All the defensive tools are there and reports are his game-calling has made huge strides, but don’t dismiss his offensive potential either.

The offense is and will probably always be behind the defense, but Rivera has had success against older competition.  As a 19-year-old in Low-A, he hit .258/.301/.391 59/17 K/BB with 7 HR.  He is quick to the ball and has advanced pitch selection and recognition for his age.  Catcher investments are questionable in dynasty, but Rivero is young, close, and not lacking attractive fantasy skills at a position with a low bar.

ETA: 2021-2022

 

20. RHP Alec Marsh

 

Age: 22

Highest Level: Rookie (Pioneer)

Marsh went undrafted as a northern prep pitcher (WI) and headed to Arizona St. where he eventually became their Friday night starter.  6’2″ 220 lb, Marsh has a clean repeatable delivery and four pitches capable of playing at the big league level, a low to mid-90s fastball, curve, slider, and change-up.

After being selected with the 70th pick of the 2019 draft, he only threw 33 Rookie IP so we still haven’t gotten a big taste of Marsh as a pro, yet with his repertoire and aggressive pitch to weak contact approach, Marsh has potential as a back-end starter.  Marsh may be worth a roster stash in larger formats, but the plethora of young arms in the system will require Marsh to force his way into their future big-league rotation.

ETA: 2022

 

21. COF Tyler Gentry

 

Age: 22

Highest Level: N/A

Selected in the third round out of Alabama in this year’s draft, Gentry’s profile feels like a less extreme Matias.  6’2″ 205 with a strong arm and nice athleticism for a corner outfielder, he is also power-oriented and has lots of strikeout concerns.  Gentry could offer a little something in the way of stolen bases.  With the questionable hit tool, and it blossoming for him to become a viable fantasy asset, Gentry is a tough investment at this point.  Dynasty owners may want to watch though; if he can tone down the aggressiveness at the plate and use his athleticism to create more contact, Gentry could become a nice cheap fantasy get.

ETA: 2023

 

22. RHP Carlos Hernandez*

 

Age: 23

Highest Level: MLB

The Royals signed Hernandez out of Venezuela during the 2016 J2 period.  Hernandez is a big pitcher, 6’4″ 250 lb (although he looked slimmed down during his 2020 campaign) with a big fastball.  Hernandez’s biggest hurdle has been his secondary offerings.  During his brief 2020 debut, he threw a sinker in the mid-90s with success, a 4-seamer that got hit hard, a curveball in the 16th (low) percentile vertical movement, and a changeup with great success and metrics, albeit a small sample size.

Hernandez’ role may be taking shape as a multi-inning reliever given the repertoire and usage in 2020.  Major league innings are coming for Hernandez but whether or not they will be useful to a dynasty owner depends on league size and development of the secondaries.

ETA: 2020 debut

 

23. SS Wilmin Candelario

 

Age: 19

Highest Level: Rookie (DSL)

Part of the Royals’ 2018 J2 signing period,  the young Dominican is touted as a tooled up, projectable, athletic young middle infielder.  Yet to come stateside, there still isn’t a lot to go off of but he did hit .315/.396/.505, which looks nice for a kid touted mostly for his defense and speed.  Last listed at 5’11” 165 lb, Candelario was far from fully grown in the last video I saw.  With plenty of mystery but intrigue, dynasty owners are going to want to watch or even perhaps take a more blind swing that is sometimes needed to land young Latin prospects before their big ascension.

ETA: 2023-24

 

24. 1B Nick Pratto

 

Age: 22

Highest Level: Single-A+ (Car)

The Royals used the 14th pick in the 2017 MLB Draft to select the prep (CA) first baseman, who was an aggressive target of mine in FYPDs.  A prep hitter comes with added risk.  A first baseman comes with more added risk.  Combine these with Pratto’s very rough 2019 and there is plenty to be worried about now.

Coming out of high school there were Joey Votto comps, an approach lauded as being advanced beyond his years, budding raw power, and intangibles through the roof.  I bit on all of it, giving far too much value to the intangible part as well.  I’m not calling it a total loss yet, but 2021 is the crossroads.

Pratto’s pro debut progressed fine his first two seasons through rookie and advanced A-ball, even success in spring training against MLB vet pitching, but he ran into an ugly .191/.278/.310 2019.  The Royals are invested in his swing, but unfortunately, we didn’t get to see it in 2020.

Pratto is a nice sized 6’1″ 195 lb plus defender with a plus arm, but the bat will have to come around quickly and carry him.  An investment here is risky business for dynasty owners, but with ample time to work on the swing in 2020, I am eagerly awaiting early 2021 looks here.

ETA: 2021-22

 

25. RHP Ben Hernandez

 

Age: 19

Highest Level: N/A

The Royals pivoted from their college heavy pitching approach with the 41st pick of the 2020 draft when they selected the northern prep (IL) pitcher.  Hernandez, 6’2″ 205, features a changeup that is arguably the best raw pitch from the entire draft.  He throws it off a low to mid-90s fastball that may get harder as he matures.  Hernandez struggles to throw a breaking ball of any sort though, and he is odd in that the changeup is the only pitch he consistently commands.  The fastball command is ok at this point.

A prep pitcher taken in this range of the draft has made the bigs less than 20% of the time, so the risk is heavy here, but there is reason to think he may be a better bet than history.  He will need to develop, especially concerning the breaking ball, if a future big league starter is in store.  The Royals will give him plenty of time to try and do this.

ETA: 2025

 

26. SS Daniel Vasquez

 

Age: 17

Highest Level: N/A

The Royal’s most expensive signing of this year’s international period at 1.5M, the young Venezuelan was last listed at 6’2″ 158 lb but he looks thicker/stronger than that.  Athletic and smooth at SS, he could stick there.  Still, a lot of physical growth to be had.  Vasquez has a fast right-handed bat with a nice looking swing.  Good looking young ballplayer.  As is with most of the Latin signees from this year, hardly much to go off of.  Vasquez doesn’t scream out needing to be rostered by dynasty owners at this point but a name to definitely watch.

ETA: 2025

 

27. 3B Emmanuel Rivera

 

Age: 24

Highest Level: Double-A (TL)

Drafted in the 19th round of the 2015 draft out of Puerto Rico, Rivera has had a steady climb and modest success in upper levels.  In 2019 at AA, he went .258/.297/.345 with 7 HR, 77 K, and 25 BB in 496 AB.  Rivera is more an overall package than a loud-tools prospect; good defensively with a strong arm and capable of being a major league third baseman, he hits for contact over power, with a sound approach, and has a high baseball IQ.

Rivera’s biggest hurdle may be a lack of in-game power from a CIF.  There may be more over the wall power than his numbers indicate.  Rivera isn’t a priority for dynasty owners at this point, but if 2021 brings some more pop and production at the high levels, he could be knocking on the door.

ETA: 2021-22

 

28. RHP Noah Murdock

 

Age: 22

Highest Level: Rookie (App)

Murdock is a tall lean pitcher standing 6’8″ and maybe even under 200 lb.  Selected in the 7th round of the 2019 draft out of Virginia, Murdock is yet to log many pro innings nor collegiate ones for that matter.  Murdock had Tommy John in college and then logged 37.1 IP during his pro debut.  When healthy, Murdock’s fastball sits mid-90s and can tick higher.  He also throws a high spin curveball that can be plus, with an underwhelming slider.

Murdock may be raw for a 22-year-old college pitching prospect, but his stuff is impressive.  The bullpen may be the best avenue, where the two big pitches can play up, but it seems he will still try his hand at starting in the short term.  Another of a long list of pitchers dynasty owners may want to keep an eye on in this system.

ETA: 2023

 

29. RHP Yefri del Rosario

 

Age: 21

Highest Level: Single-A-

An international free agent signed out of the DR in 2016, the 6’2″ 180 lb del Rosario was later signed by the Royals due to the Braves’ penalty for breaking MLB’s J2 rules.  del Rosario proved himself starting pitcher worthy in 2018 while starting 15 games, using his mid-90s fastball, curve, and changeup to throw 79 solid innings which included a dominant run down the stretch.  Unfortunately, that was the last time we got to see him pitch, as he missed all of 2019 because of a nerve injury in his arm and 2020 was lost.

del Rosario is an exciting young arm but still has to prove health and skills against upper-level competition.  The bullpen is going to be a possibility for a lot of young arms in this system because of the talented youth in, or, entering the big leagues now.  Watching del Rosario’s development may be worthwhile for dynasty owners.

ETA: 2022

 

30. RHP Scott Blewett*

 

Age: 24

Highest Level: MLB

A 2nd-round prep (NY) selection in 2014, Blewett made his debut last season making two relief appearances, 3 IP 2ER 4K 1 BB.  6’6″ 210, mid-90s fastball, a good curveball that’s sometimes better, and a pedestrian change-up, Blewett may have carved out a path as a potential swingman in the near future.

Blewett’s numbers won’t blow you away, but he did pitch in some tough leagues/environments, so it wouldn’t surprise if some of his best numbers come in the bigs.  Nothing more than a name for large dynasty league owners to know, but a young pitcher on the cusp of a major league role.

ETA: 2020 debut

 

31. RHP Stephen Woods

 

Age: 25

Highest Level: Single A+ (FSL)

Woods was originally an 8th round selection of the Giants in 2016 but was part of the Evan Longoria trade to Tampa Bay.  The Royals selected him during the 2019 Rule 5 draft whereupon the Rays and Royals agreed on a trade for him to bypass Rule 5 active roster requirements.

Coming out from Albany, Woods was considered a project pitcher with a big fastball and big curveball.  Control was the 6’2″ 200 lb starter’s problem, but 2019 in the FSL went significantly better.  Woods threw 86 IP in 12 starts and 6 relief appearances with 79 K and 39 BB.

Questions remain about his future role and path to the big leagues, but if such substantial gains are made again, Woods becomes a very viable major league option, and a name dynasty owners may want to know.

ETA: 2021

 

32. RHP John Heasley

 

Age: 24

Highest Level: Single-A- (Sal)

The Royals took Heasley out of Oklahoma St. with an over the slot 13th Rd pick in 2018.  6’3″ 215, Heasley may be becoming the pitcher people have been waiting for.  A mid to upper-90s fastball coupled with a curveball and change better than average, Heasley had a very nice Low-A season in 2019; 112.2 IP, 120 K, 34 BB, and a 1.13 WHIP.

2020 was going to be his chance at some upper-level competition and some feel the arrow is pointing up.  Heasley may be better suited in the bullpen or have to go there because of the Royals’ other options, but there may be a big leaguer brewing here.  Dynasty owners may want to watch.

ETA: 2022

 

33. RHP Zach Haake

 

Age: 24

Highest Level: Single-A-

After a very lackluster and small sample-sized collegiate career at Arkansas St. and Kentucky, the Royals took a chance on Haake during the 6th round of the 2018 draft.  Haake has dominated his first 95+ pro innings to a tune of 2.55 ERA and 10.7 K/9.

Listed at 6’4″, he’s probably taller than that, lanky, and capable of three plus pitches.  Haake’s fastball can touch the upper 90s, he has a changeup with plus+ diving action and a slider with plus potential.  Haake has never logged a lot of IP, his 80 in 2019 being the most in a year, so he still needs to prove he could handle a starter’s workload and the Royals are developing him this way.

Haake has the stuff to be a big leaguer, but he is still very raw.  He may be worthy of putting toward the top of your raw pitchers to watch list for dynasty, as a soon to come test at the upper levels may be in store.

ETA: 2022

 

34. 3B Kelvin Gutierrez*

 

Age: 26

Highest Level: MLB

A 2013 J2 signing of the Nationals out of the DR, and then traded to the Royals in 2018 as part of the Kelvin Herrera return, Gutierrez has logged 82 MLB at-bats with the Royals.  A plus defender with a plus arm, the offense is the concern, thus unlikely a future fantasy asset.

Gutierrez is believed to have some pop in his right-handed bat but is more of a hard swinger than hitter, and it hasn’t produced a lot of HRs.  Gutierrez struggles with breaking balls as well.

A lot of improvements are needed at the plate before dynasty owners will find him relevant and I’m not sure that’s going to happen.  Gutierrez is on the 40-man though and will be vying for a roster spot this spring.

ETA: 2019 debut

 

35. LHP Daniel Tillo*

Age: 24

Highest Level: Double-A

The Royals used their 3rd round pick in 2017 taking the junior college project arm Tillo.  Tillo popped up as a prospect late in high school and has gone from more of an arm to a 40-man addition this year.   Tillo is 6’5″ 215 lb, athletic, with a fastball touching high-90s paired with some solid secondaries: a changeup and slider.  Development in the control and command departments is needed, but Tillo could be shaping into a major league bullpen option where his stuff could play up.

Tillo has been getting developed as a starter, but that seems unlikely unless the time off in 2020 led to some big strike-throwing improvements.  Tillo is just a name to know for dynasty owners at this point.

ETA: 2021

 

36. RHP Brandon Marklund

 

Age: 24

Highest Level: Single-A (Sal)

Marklund went undrafted out of his small college in TN and played in Australia.  The Royals may have found a future big leaguer in the 6’2″ 185 lb Canadian.  With a fastball sitting mid-90s, a decent breaking ball, and developing changeup, Marklund absolutely destroyed his stateside pro debut.  In 39.1 IP he gave up 2 ER with a 10.07 K/9.  Control is a concern as he walked over four per nine innings.

Marklund is being developed as a reliever but may have a chance to provide late-inning help on the big league level.  I’m looking forward to seeing how the unwanted small school prospect performs in 2021 which should provide an upper level go at things.

ETA: 2022

 

37. CF John Rave

 

Age: 23

Highest Level: Single-A-

A 5th round pick in 2019, the 6′ 185 lb centerfielder from Illinois St. hasn’t lit the world on fire, only hitting .258 and striking out 58 times in 174 ABs.  Rave had swing concerns coming out of Illinois St., and may still have those, or be working through them, so the numbers don’t tell the whole story, but his collegiate track record of hitting paired with his plus speed and average power makes him an intriguing dynasty watch in 2021.

2020 afforded a lot of young players unprecedented time to have the freedom to work on things without the pressure of results.  I am anxious to see Rave in 2021, and a decision on how to value him as a prospect should come quickly.

ETA: 2022

 

38. C M.J. Melendez

 

Age: 22

Highest Level: Single-A+ (Car)

The Royals used the 52nd pick of the 2017 draft on the prep (FL) catcher with a big arm.  Melendez cruised through his first two pro careers which included a .251 19 HR Low-A debut season propelling him to top-10 prospect in the organization.

A 2019 High-A promotion proved to be as far as his offensive approach would work as he scuffled to a tune of .163 and 9 HR in 365 AB.  Melendez has the reputation of having a pull-happy shallow approach at the plate.  Defensively, Melendez is a bonafide MLB possibility, so that will keep him relevant, but if he were to ever become an offensive threat, lots of development is needed at the plate.

At best a name to know for dynasty owners at this point, but a left-handed defensive catcher doesn’t have to set the world on fire with the bat to get a shot in the bigs.

ETA: 2024

 

39. IF Lucius Fox*

 

Age: 23

Highest Level: Triple-A (IL)

The Giants signed Fox out of the Bahamas during the 2015 J2 period and later sent him to Tampa Bay in the Matt Moore deal.  Fox was again traded last year for Brett Phillips.

Fox is a very athletic and very fast MLB utility type if only he could hit.  He lacks pop in his 6’1″ 185 frame and struggles to drive the ball; only 11 HR in his 1564 minor league AB with a .244 average.  He doesn’t strike out a ton and has drawn walks, but he will have to figure out a way to become more of a threat at the plate to fill the role of a speedy in the dirt bench bat the Royals have utilized in the past.  Probably not anything more than a name to know for dynasty owners.

ETA: 2021

 

40. PR/CF Nick Heath*

 

Age: 27

Highest Level: MLB

A 16th round pick in 2016 out of Northwestern St., the 6’1″ 190 lb burner is a base-stealing machine.  In 2019 he stole 60 bases between 105 Double-A and Triple-A games.  His left-handed bat leaves much to be desired though. Although he’s had some flashes of success at the plate, the very athletic center fielder seems to fit the mold of the bench speed guy the Royals seem to covet.  There may be more power in the bat than has shown but his approach is using his speed but he swings and misses far too much.

At 27 years old it’s doubtful Heath ever becomes a real fantasy asset, but perhaps a season whereupon he’s serviceable at the plate and steals some bags could be in store, but a dynasty order is better served treating him as the Royals late-inning base-stealing threat if anything at all.

ETA: 2020 debut

 

41. Samuel Valerio

 

Age: 19

Highest Level: Rookie (DSL)

Valerio is a great example of how mysterious J2 prospects can be, and how little can be known from signing amounts.  Signed for 200K+ in 2018, the big 6’4″ 220 lb Dominican has added a lot of velocity since his amateur days just a few years prior.  Rumored to hit triple digits (the little video out there does show some powerful stuff, but no way to gauge actual velocity) with the fastball, a developing change-up, and breaking ball, DSL numbers reflect what one may expect here; high Ks, high walks.

Valerio is very far away from being a major league possibility, but a name to know and watch for dynasty owners, as the fastball is big time.

ETA: 2024-25

 

42. RHP Yohanse Morel

 

Age: 20

Highest Level: Single-A (Sal)

Part of the National’s 2017 international class, Morel was part of the Kelvin Herrera trade in 2018.  6′ 170 lb, there is still a lot of development to be had, but Morel has an intriguing arsenal of pitches; a 4-seamer and 2-seamer that can get to mid-90s, a slider capable of devastating young hitters, and a harder changeup with lots of late movement.

Morel solved rookie ball after one season, most of which was played stateside in the AZL, but ran into some expected growing pains in Low-A.  It wasn’t all bad, just inconsistent.  The future role is uncertain but the plan seems to be continuing along the starter’s path.  Morel is another young, raw, talented arm in the Royals’ system to keep an eye on.

ETA: 2024

 

43. LF Darryl Collins

 

Age: 19

Highest Level: Rookie (AZL)

Signed in August of 2018, out of the Netherlands, Collins has asserted himself as one of the most exciting young bats in the system.  Collins started playing professionally in Europe as a 15-year-old…and hit over .400 there.

During his pro debut in the AZL 2019, he was just 17 years old and hit .320/.401/.436.  Collins will have to continue to hit as he doesn’t currently possess a lot of other plus tools.  Perhaps limited to left field because of a minus arm, and yet to pack any punch in his 6’2″ 185 lb frame, a path to the majors may be narrow.

Collins is advanced at the plate with great contact skills and there could be some power to grow into.  Collins will most likely not be a threat on the bases.  An exciting young hit tool to keep an eye on for dynasty owners, but probably nothing more than that at this point.

ETA: 2024

 

44. SS Jeison Guzman

 

Age: 22

Highest Level: Single-A-

A high dollar 2015 J2 signing out of the Dominican, Guzman’s offensive development has been slow.  6’2″ 180 lbs, Guzman is a plus defensive shortstop and could have a could enough glove to carry him to the bigs if the offense can continue to improve.

Guzman needs to cut down the strikeouts and provide more contact, but there were signs of improvement in 2019, including some previously absent power as he hit 7 HRs in 450 AB.   It’s hard for dynasty owners to get excited about Guzman’s profile, but he may have a path to the big leagues if he can get the offense goos enough.

ETA: 2022

 

45. RHP Charlie Neuweiler

 

Age: 21

Highest Level: Single-A-

The 6’2″ 215 lb Neuweiler’s development, as can usually be the case for a northern prep (NY) prospect, was slow his first couple pro tastes.  In 2019, the former 5th round pick (2017) asserted himself as a pitching prospect of note, logging 148.2 IP with a 4.36 ERA 1.31 WHIP 9.26 K/9.

Neuweiler doesn’t have an overpowering fastball but he can spin a curveball graded plus in the past.  Neuweiler also throws a slider and a changeup.  It’s a longshot Neuweiler finds himself in the Royals big league rotation, but with some more development, he could fit the bill of a multi-inning reliever.  A name for dynasty owners to know.

ETA: 2022-23

 

46. RHP Adrian Alcantara

 

Age: 21

Highest Level: Rookie (App)

Signed out of the Dominican during the 2017 J2 period, Alcantara is yet to pitch past rookie ball, he has three above-average offerings; a low to mid-90s fastball with life, a curveball needing some more consistency, and a changeup with good life.

At 6’1″ 185 lb, with the combo of repertoire, strike-throwing and command, Alcantara could solidify himself as a major league possibility with production against better competition.  He should get a chance in 2021 to prove that.  Alcantara is yet another young arm worthy of watching in this system.

ETA: 2023-24

 

47. LHP Evan Steele

 

Age: 24

Highest Level: Single-A+

The Royals second-round pick of the 2017 draft out of junior college (FL) has had a slowed development.  Missing all of 2018 and half of 2019 because of a shoulder injury, coupled with COVID, he has only logged 57 pro IP.

Steele, at 6’5″ 201 lb, comes at hitters with a different arm angle and can be deceptive with his low-90s fastball, curveball, slider arsenal.  Steele did pitch well, especially the latter part of his 2019 return, but there are still upper levels and role questions to answer.  At this point, Steele is nothing more than a name to know for dynasty owners.

ETA: 2023

 

48. 2B Jimmy Govern

 

Age: 24

Highest Level: Triple-A (PCL)

A 3oth round pick and 5K signing out of Eastern Illinois, Govern may not be anything more than organizational depth/filler, but he can swing a bat.  As an amateur, Govern failed to produce in the wood bat summer leagues but hit .314 with a .927 OPS and 35 HR in 3 seasons.  The Royals sent Govern up to AAA near the end of his debut season after the AZL was no match, where he went 7 for 21 with 2 HR.

5’11” 190 lb, and probably limited to second base on the dirt, maybe a left-fielder if need, Govern will have to continue to produce at a high level to force his way into the Royals’ plans.  More of a fun name to watch for dynasty owners than anything else.

ETA: 2022

 

49. RHP Grant Gambrell

 

Age: 23

Highest Level: Rookie (Pioneer)

Gambrell rode a fantastic junior season at Oregon St. into a 3rd round pick of the Royals in 2019.  6’4″ 225 lb, Gambrell has some potential big league stuff with a mid-90s fastball, curveball, changeup repertoire.  Gambrell’s pro debut in 2019 did not yield great results, with the club pointing to an adjustment to throwing a new two-seamer and a need for Gambrell to “adjust to pro ball”.

A skilled young pitcher I wouldn’t write-off at this point, but not an investment dynasty owners don’t need to think about making currently.

ETA: 2023

 

50. RHP Woo-Young Jin

 

Age: 20

Highest Level: Rookie (AZL)

Signed as an international free agent in 2018, Jin impressed at showcases stateside, reportedly hitting mid-90s as a 16-year-old.  (The video I saw had him sitting upper 80s at the time.)  6’2″ 210 lb with a well extended 3/4 arm slot, Jin had a successful pro debut in the AZL 2019.  In 46 IP he struck out 54 and only gave up 12 ER and 13 walks.  Jin pairs his fastball with a slider that could be plus and a developing changeup.  Jin is another young exciting arm in the system for dynasty owners to watch.

ETA: 2023

 

Featured Image by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)

Nate Handy

Nate enjoys picking up the prospect scraps, turning over rocks to share what muddy treats he can find. Residing high up the Rocky Mountains with his wife and children, trying to stay cool, getting a broader view. A fan of the underappreciated, overlooked and disregarded. A true mud person trying to make informed mistakes.

  • Avatar Ben Pernick says:

    If Franchy Cordero still counted as a prospect (just barely passed the threshold in 2018), where would you rank him?

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