The Royals saw the bulk of their most talented, productive prospects meet pre-season expectations by graduating to the major leagues in 2022. As a result, their system is a bit depleted, with more 40-45 FV types than impact bats & arms as in previous years. Additionally, it’s becoming apparent that Kansas City’s deep investment in young pitching from 2017 onward has not paid off, with Brady Singer representing the only thing close to a homegrown starter of note (and even he has a few apparent warts to his game). Luckily, drafting and growing hitters has been much less of a nightmare, as lesser-known players like Vinnie Pasquantino and MJ Melendez have had banner years in the high minors and catapulted themselves into everyday major leaguers. With that in mind, here’s a look at the top 15 Royals prospects from a fantasy perspective as we enter 2023.
Kansas City Royals Top Fantasy Baseball Prospects 2023
1. Gavin Cross, OF
Age 22/2022 Stats (Rookie/A-): 109 ABs, .312/.437/.633, 8 HR, 4 SB, 24 R, 25 RBI
The Royals’ #1 pick in the 2022 MLB draft, Cross finished his three-year career at Virginia Tech with his most impressive season of production (career highs in HRs, SBs, XBH, BB% and K%). Cross has a natural loft from his left-handed swing and simple mechanics that allow him to drive balls deep from gap to gap. Like most left-handed power bats, he’ll pounce on anything on the inner half but he’s also shown an early history of plate discipline. Not only was his walk rate 17.8% over his first 109 pro ABs, but watching Cross in the box he has a mature approach, typical for someone with Power 5 collegiate experience. 20 HRs is easily projectable for Cross, and he could chip in 7-10 SBs early as a pro but he’ll likely slow down as he ages. This process will likely move him from CF where he’s manageable to RF where his above-average arm and bat will make him a prototypical fit.
2. Nick Loftin, 3B/OF
Age 24/2022 Stats (AA/AAA): 516 ABs, .254/.333/.403, 17 HR, 29 SB, 104 R, 66 RBI
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: older Royals prospect with defensive versatility in both infield and outfield positions, average pop, and above-average speed/base-running instincts. High-effort player, never flashy but with consistent production. As though the Royals brass kept Whit Merrifield’s DNA stored in a mosquito embalmed in amber, Loftin arrived in 2020 out of Baylor with a similar jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none toolbox. His numbers did take a tumble after a promotion to Triple-A, but a closer look points more to bad luck than being overmatched (.258 BABIP from August 1st to September 30th). You might be able to find higher ceilings among some younger, less experienced players but Loftin is poised to give you infield/outfield eligibility with double-digit HR/SB potential—leagues have been won with less.
3. Tyler Gentry, LF/RF
Age 24/2022 Stats (A+/AA): 402 ABs, .326/.422/.542, 21 HR, 10 SB, 79 R, 86 RBI
Another finding in the older-than-normal bucket, it took about a season and a half to get Gentry to a more age-appropriate level. In his wake, he left a .295/.413/.480 triple slash composited over two years at High-A before arriving at Double-A Northwest Arkansas and upping his game. Like the two collegiate bats above him, Gentry has straightforward mechanics, a mature approach at the plate (another Power 5 prospect: Alabama), and a good understanding of how to tap into his power. In Gentry’s case, he uses a slight toe tap as a timing mechanism and good hand movement to manipulate the barrel and drive pitches. Defensively, he profiles better as a LF which of course puts more pressure on the bat but Gentry could coax a HR total in the high teens with a fair amount of XBH—if he can get everyday at-bats.
4. Frank Mozzicato, P
Age 19/2022 Stats (A-): 69 IP/4.30 ERA/1.536 WHIP/89 K
The first pitcher on the list and I’ll restate my opening paragraph: the stat lines that you’re going to see from Royals pitching prospects will be ugly. I mean U-G-L-Y, no alibi-type ugly, but the job here isn’t to scout the box score, it’s to talk about ability and the potential to improve. Despite having two strikes against him to start his pro career (prep arm with almost 500 IP at the HS level coming from a cold weather state, Connecticut), Mozzicato actually improved month over month in ’22. Armed with three solid pitches, the curveball is currently the most defined. Able to throw it both in and out of the zone, the curve will buy him time to develop the rest of his repertoire. His fastball lacks in velo (reports have him in the low 90s), the change-up is average, and his command is still inconsistent. That said, his age and highly graded breaking ball give him a chance at developing into a mid-rotation starter, it just might take a while.
5. Maikel Garcia, SS
Age 23/2022 Stats (AA): 487 ABs, .285/.359/.427, 11 HR, 39 SB, 104 R, 61 RBI
(MLB): 23 ABs, .318/.348/.364, 0 HR, 0 SB, 1 R, 2 RBI
Garcia received a surprise promotion to the majors last year as part of the KC contingent that filled in for several unvaccinated regulars during a series in Toronto. Garcia’s main draw is his speed, along with his sure-handedness at shortstop. There are only nine MLB games of data so it’s small sample theater, but having a 3.3° launch angle along with a sub-90s average EV doesn’t bode well. It’s not apparent that Garcia will be more than a utility option, in which case his stolen base potential is effectively canceled out.
6. Cayden Wallace, 3B
Age 21/2022 Stats (Rookie/A-): 116 ABs, .293/.379/.466, 2 HR, 8 SB, 18 R, 17 RBI
Wallace was selected out of Arkansas in the second round of this year’s draft and had an abbreviated but encouraging start to his pro career. Wallace has tweaked his stance since his freshman year, lowering his hands in his setup, reminiscent of Pete Alonso; this change may allow him to tap into more power. Defensively, he has the reflexes, footwork, and arm strength you want from an everyday starter at 3B. It’s important to note that much of his damage in ’22 was against younger competition. But he’s physically projectable and could grow into a solid 20+ HR hitter.
7. Beck Way, P
Age 23/2022 Stats (A+): 108 IP/3.75 ERA/1.13 WHIP/127 K
Coming to Kansas City via the New York Yankees‘ farm system, Way was part of the Andrew Benintendi trade in July. Using an extreme 3/4 arm slot that almost comes across as a sidewinder, Way gets good extension and run coming downhill on the mound. He made waves with an eight-inning, 10 K no-hit outing in September last season, in which his slider flashed as a potential plus pitch. Given his age and level, I’d expect the Royals to move Way to Double-A Northwest Arkansas to start the season and get him in front of the best competition. There’s a range of outcomes, especially given the woes of Kansas City pitching development, but it’s not hard to see a solid SP4, with strikeouts being the main contribution even while the control may be average.
8. Carter Jensen, C
Age 19/2022 Stats (A-): 393 ABs, .227/.363/.382, 11 HR, 8 SB, 66 R, 50 RBI
Drafted out of high school, Jensen held his own in his first full pro season, able to play the most grueling position in baseball for 392 innings over 46 games. Wisely, KC player development supplemented this time with 67 games at DH, saving Jensen’s body from being completely ground down behind the plate. With all that said, Jensen looked good. Stolen base numbers always jump out for catchers, although with Jensen having a typical backstop build (thick through the middle, under 6’3) it’s likely that he slows as he ages. Jensen got off to a slow start in April/May of 2022 which is a large reason for his underwhelming triple slash BUT he consistently showed improvements, hitting .260/.403/.416 from August 1 – Sept 11. Look for Jensen to split time between A-ball levels as he continues to play against older, more experienced competition.
9. Drew Waters, OF
Age 24/2022 Stats (A+/AAA): 324 ABs, .269/.345/.460, 13 HR, 18 SB, 60 R, 35 RBI
(MLB): 96 ABs, .240/.324/.479, 5 HR, 0 SB, 14 R, 18 RBI
Who would’ve seen this coming in January 2020? At the time, Waters was in the Braves farm system, ranked as their #2 overall prospect by MLB Pipeline (behind Cristian Pache no less!). Fast forward through a global pandemic, a 2021 season where Waters had a 94 wRC+, and the rise of Michael Harris II, and now Drew Waters is a Kansas City Royal. Looking to secure everyday playing time, Waters was promoted in August ’22 and showed a little bit of everything. His power flashed with five HRs and six doubles, while he still struggled with strikeouts to the tune of a 36.7% K rate. Entering 2023, there are outfield spots to be had (surely Michael A. Taylor can’t complete another season as their full-time CF?) so it’s on Waters to do the most with his opportunities. If he can get the K rate around 26% with similar power output, he suddenly becomes an attractive cheap add as a fourth/fifth OF type.
10. Alec Marsh, P
Age 24/2022 Stats (AA): 124.1 IP/6.88 ERA/1.617 WHIP/156 K
Another pitching prospect drafted by Kansas City, another potential disappointment after three years of topsy-turviness for Marsh. After logging a handful of innings in 2019 at Rookie ball, Marsh was promoted to Double-A in 2021 and encountered brief success before experiencing a bicep injury that ended his season. In 2022, Marsh repeated Double-A but missed much of the year with another arm injury before reappearing in a couple of September Triple-A starts. Marsh has always had swing & miss stuff but his sub-optimal control and HR tendencies make him difficult to predict, to say nothing about his injury history. The Royals protecting him from the Rule 5 draft by adding him to their 40-man could be a good indication that they haven’t given up on him yet. But this year feels like it’s make-or-break for Marsh.
11. Luca Tresh, C
Age 23/2022 Stats (A+/AA): 391 ABs, .269/.360/.468, 19 HR, 4 SB, 64 R, 68 RBI
Tresh was just given a non-roster invite to Royals Spring Training, a perfect time for him to learn around big leaguers and show if he may be able to take over catching duties once decisions are made about Salvador Perez’s future. Tresh profiles as a better real-life player than fantasy, given the nature of his position and his collegiate track record of average power. Tresh’s swing path is rather flat, giving him a punchy type of swing when dealing with pitches away from his body. The power lies in his pull-side but it’s unlikely that approach will result in double-digit HR totals as he climbs the ranks.
12. T.J. Sikkema, P
Age 24/2022 Stats (A+/AA): 69 IP/4.83 ERA/1.261 WHIP/83 K
Another piece of the aforementioned Benintendi trade, Sikkema profiles better as a reliever. Sikkema experienced the difference between High-A and Double-A batters in 2022, seeing his K-BB rate evaporate from a robust 31.7% over 36 IP to 9% in 32.2 IP. With a mostly low-velo FB along with an above-average slider and decent change, he has a floor as a multi-inning guy that brings value in deeper leagues, where pitching gets scarce.
13. Diego Hernandez, OF
Age 22/2022 Stats (A+/AA): 454 ABs, .284/.347/.408, 9 HR, 40 SB, 78 R, 40 RBI
With a stance and swing that looks Kenny Lofton-esque, Hernandez has the speed and defensive ability to project a floor as a backup OF. He sprays the ball all over the field and has shown a history of optimal plate discipline, keeping his K rate right around 20% through each of the last three levels of the minors. If Hernandez can show the ability to hit the ball even remotely hard enough at the Double-A level (20% HH rate in 141 PAs last season), the Royals could have a breakout player on their hands.
14. Asa Lacy, P
Age 23/2022 Stats (Rookie/AA): 28 IP/10.61 ERA/1.964 WHIP/35 K
Almost not making this list at all, there’s not much more that can be written about the 2020 #4 overall pick. Lacy continues to struggle with basic strike-throwing and when he does get it in the zone, it gets hit…hard. Given the pedigree, it’s unlikely that the Royals front office will throw in the towel on getting something from their first-round selection. Still, there’s currently nothing here to entice any dynasty manager to roster him.
15. Samad Taylor, 2B/LF
Age 24/2022 Stats (AAA): 244 ABs, .258/.337/.426, 9 HR, 23 SB, 41 R, 45 RBI
Taylor came over as part of the Whit Merrifield deal with Toronto last season. Taylor looks strictly like a utility guy that plays the two least valuable positions on the field. While he does have decent speed, there’s no carrying tool that pushes him up the ranks. Additionally, his age starts to point toward him being a finished product. Taylor likely makes the big leagues this year, but only the deepest of leagues and rosters should be exploring him as a potential add.
Photos by Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire and Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire | Featured Image by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter and @EthanMKaplanImages on Instagram)