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Mid-Season Royals Top 20 Prospects and MiLB Top 50

Not quite the Best Farm System Ever, but still strong

Christian Petersen

These lists are always supremely subjective, so if my opinion doesn't match yours then suck it. I'm joking of course, but despite how you feel about a player or his ranking on a list, you've always got to remember most lists are 40% objectivity and 60% subjectivity (that's my subjective opinion on subjectivity).

Byron Buxton is an elite prospect, and every major prospect outlet named him #1 overall on their Top 100 lists last year, but that doesn't mean he has to be YOUR #1 prospect. While it's likely unreasonable to not place him in Top 10 (objectivity) it's probably reasonable to not make him the default #1 (subjectivity).

For me when it comes to ranking prospects I generally side with tools over results unless the results are atrocious then you've got to move the player down a bit as long as the tools haven't changed. Tools should generally drive results, and if a raw 70-grade power tool hitter has hit only 10 home runs over two seasons then you've gotta question if the 70 raw power is there or if it'll ever be game power.

Overall system remarks:

I think this is still a very strong system and perhaps Top 10. It was ranked 7th best by Baseball Prospectus last year. While Ventura has graduated, arguably the top prospect in the group, other prospects have stepped up and other organizations have graduated players. Boston is probably going to rank lower due to Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr, and Mookie Betts all getting called up. That's not a bad thing because creating successful major league players is the point of prospects, but some people get hung up on farm rankings.

Going into this season we knew most of the talent would be at the lower levels. A strong "prospect" rotation in Wilmington was the core of the list. There are some hitters in AA, but the bulk of the high end prospects are still in the lower minors. That's no fault of their own either because they are all young, but most are a few years away from making the big league team.

Pitching was once the strongest part of this farm system and I think that's remained the same. Recent draftees and good performances have continued to narrate that story.

Power is still missing for the most part in the system.

1. Kyle Zimmer - SP DNP (so far)

Still the best prospect in this organization if you ask me, and you kinda are by reading this article no? Delivery is still smooth and effortless, he's got great athleticism and the arsenal is still outstanding. One wonders though how he'll perform if/when he gets back on the mound.

The constant injuries are a downgrade a bit. He was touted as being a "fresh" arm coming out of college. He had little mileage on the arm and that could be a double edged sword. Arm doesn't have any damage on it initially, but because his arm isn't used to throwing a lot then it's taking some time to develop.

If Zimmer can get/stay healthy, which is questionable right now, then he's one of the best pitching prospects in the minors and has the upside of a strong #2 starter.

Hard to guess where he ranks on the end of year lists, but those that go on upside (like Baseball Prospectus) then he could stay in the Top 30. If he sees in game action and is as good as his pre-injury self then he could be Top 20.

2. Raul Mondesi - SS  Wilmington .219/.266/.305 60 wRC+/85 wOBA+

The triple slash line is ugly at the face of it, but the park he plays in and his age puts a little makeup on it. He's the youngest position player in all of A+ and despite the hitting woes the speed and fielding are still excellent. Rich Wilson at Prospect361 had a good brief on his season so far:

It's easy to dismiss Raul Mondesi's 2014 stat line and label him a good, but not great prospect. Don't let the .243 batting average fool you. He's got great tools including excellent bat speed with natural bat-to-ball skills and is only 18 years-old while playing in High-A.

3. Hunter Dozier - 3B Wilmington/Northwest Arkansas .295/.397/.429 134 wRC+/119 wOBA+

Promoted to AA recently, Dozier has been basically as touted. Strong plate discipline skills (13.1 BB%/.397 OBP), ability to hit for average (.295 average), line drive swing (20% LD%), and 60 raw power (18 doubles, 4 home runs). You'd like to see more home runs no doubt and perhaps his home park in Wilmington was the cause.

Dozier will finish out 2014 in AA with an eye on the majors perhaps mid-season 2015. If he were to reach the majors in 2015 he could be the first non-reliever from the 2013 class to debut.

4. Sean Manaea - SP Wilmington 11.77 K/9 4.37 B/9 4.83 ERA 3.67 FIP

Solid debut for Manaea this year and reports on his stuff have been very positive. Fastball velocity hasn't been at Cape Cod levels, but sitting 93-95 and touching 97. Slider is thrown from exact same arm slot as fastball and has really good bite to it coupled with low to mid 80's speed. Changeup is behind the other two pitches, average pitch, but the plus-fastball helps it play up when he throws it from the same arm angle.

Manaea was really good deception. Holds the ball long and can repeat pitches from the same arm angle to further that.

The command profile hasn't been as advertised and he's walked too many batters, but the strikeouts have been there.

Manaea is 3rd in all of minor league baseball in K/9. I'm wondering if he'll get a shot at AA this year, getting him out of a pitcher friendly Wilmington, at some point much like Zimmer did last year.

5. Miguel Almonte - SP Wilmington 8.46 K/9 2.55 B/9 4.17 ERA 4.12 FIP

Tough year for Almonte and he's done it at Wilmington. Fastball has been faster this year than I remember it being. He's flashed 96 with it and sat 93ish. Doesn't have the same run as Manaea's, but he's got good control with it. Changeup is still his best pitch for me, but he'll need to keep throwing it to gain more command than it has now.

I think the command results have been a little better than the actual profile, but that's a good thing and could help re-evaluate it as he continues to move up the organizational ladder.

Almonte has slowly been moving the needle from 5th starter to possible #3 starter each year.

6. Cheslor Cuthbert - 3B Northwest Arkansas .273/.339/.415 117 wRC+/ 105 wOBA+

I've never been a huge fan of Cuthbert. He's always been touted as being a plus-raw power guy, but it's never really reared it's head in game action and defensively he's been sloppy. This is why you have to keep re-evaluating players because they can look different one season to the next and begin to hone in on their projected tools.

Cuthbert is a home run away from a career high, and he's right around his career high in slugging too. It's encouraging to see a young guy like Cuthbert turn it on in AA. This is his second time in NWA so you expect him to be better than the first time, but he's back on my radar a bit.

Next we need to talk about the defense. I've always thought he was choppy and didn't have good coordination at third with fringy range and an average arm. When they moved him off third base to first I was happy, but then you had to question if the bat will play at first. Now the Royals are going to give him some time at second, which if somehow he can survive defensively there then he could be a solid player, but it's gonna be a long road defensively I feel.

7. Jorge Bonifacio - OF Northwest Arkansas .225/.299/.331 83 wRC+/ 92 wOBA+

One of my favorite guys in the system, Bonifacio is a pure hitter at his heart but always flashed the strong hit tool a little more than power. This season so far he's struggled to flash either in his second and extended stay in NWA. Was hoping to see him move higher on the list from last year where I ranked him fifth, but he's betrayed me and moved down. Still has the tools to be an everyday right fielder who can get on base and hit for .280+, but the question was always on the power and he hasn't answered those questions so far this year.

8. Brandon Finnegan - SP DNP

Placeholder grade, and could be as high as fifth perhaps at the end of season depending on how his debut goes in a few weeks. He arrived in Wilmington on Monday and will get some side work in before he makes his first start sometime in mid-July. The height isn't an issue and the health concerns may have been overblown as he was great down the stretch for TCU in the College World Series. I think the fastball/slider combo plays well for him and he's got great deception.

I didn't rank Manaea on last years list, but I feel comfortable putting Finnegan here for now since I've seen him a couple times.

9. Christian Binford - SP Wilmington 10.02 K/9 1.20 B/9 2.40 ERA 2.20 FIP

Guy has put up video game numbers this year. Last I checked he had something like 34 straight innings without allowing a walk.

Elite command profile is there, but I'm not sold on the fastball as he gets higher up the affiliate list.

Recently promoted to AA. If he performs well at AA he moves up higher, but given his age and profile, a poor performance won't knock him down.

10. Bubba Starling - OF Wilmington .203/.287/.326 74 wRC+/92 wOBA+

Okay, I'm finally almost kinda about to give up on Starling. Just when I think I'm out, he can sometimes pull me back in.

If you can believe it, this'll likely be his first season with a sub-100 wRC+. I don't totally credit that to Wilmington, but a nearly 20% difference between his wRC+ and wOBA+ is interesting.

He's a guy who's going to always flash his potential for small stretches then slump for a time. He had that 15 game hit streak where it felt like he was starting to come around, then followed it up with a 2-26 stretch, then a week or two later he'll have a 10 game stretch where he hits .300+.

He's shown a pretty sizable platoon split as he's hit .288/.372/.562 against lefties but just .174/.257/.248 against righties. That could be...something?

Defense and speed are still easy plus or double plus tools and the raw power can be displayed when he turns on one, but his potential neurological recognition issues are holding things back severely.

He stills make my list because I could see him being a two win player in the majors one day given his speed/defense.

11. Chase Vallot - C Burlington .275/.348/.550 147 wRC+

Hard to grade recent draftees. Vallot is raw, but his tools warrant a spot in the Top 10-15 right now. He's hit for the power we should expect from him so far in Burlington as he's hit two home runs in 11 games with five doubles.

Power is weak right now in the system and Vallot could be an answer if he develops. Questions about him sticking behind the plate are there and maybe the Royals move him off catcher so he can develop his bat. Maybe he could be a heavier/slower Wil Myers one day if that isn't too cliche of a result. Wheels aren't impressive but the arm is strong.

He's only 17 and won't be 18 till near seasons end.

He's probably number one on my list for guys who could move up this list a lot come this time next year where we'll have basically a full season of numbers to look at if he moves to full season Lexington next year to begin with.

12. Dominique Taylor - OF Lexington .305/.338/.469 121 wRC+/107 wOBA+

Interesting and fun guy to watch. All out effort, speed, and has some pop in his bat. So far he's hit pretty well at every level. Makes good contact and could play centerfield in the pros. He's not a big burly guy, but he has some power in his bat. Needs to work on his plate discipline and take some walks as a student at the Sal Perez School of Plate Discipline, but doesn't really strike out much with his bat-to-ball skills.

13. Elier Hernandez - OF Lexington .224/.270/.371 76 wRC+/ 88 wOBA+

Rough go for the 19 year old in his first appearance in full season ball. Still has a lot of tools to like and needs to stay healthy and play to bring them out. Probably three years away at least, but could be something to look forward to.

14. Ramon Torres - 2B Lexington .304/.346/.428 116 wRC+/105 wOBA+

I couldn't let Torres fall any farther. He's hit well at really every level, but he's been a slow developer and is 21 in Lexington. Recently switched from shortstop to more time at second and still has work to do with the glove at either side of second base.

He's has a sleeper profile, but needs to start waking up higher on the ladder.

15. Foster Griffin - SP Burlington 6 K/9 3 B/9 0.00 ERA 3.32 FIP (3 innings pitched)

Royals 28th overall selection in this years draft. Hard to put on a list given his little results and doesn't have an amazing arsenal. Hoping he puts on some arm strength and can sit low-90's rather than high-80's. He's able to touch 94, but it would be nice to see him gain a mile or two. Changeup is nice, but curveball needs reps and work.

16. Jason Adam - SP Northwest Arkansas 8.11 K/9 2.77 B/9 5.87 ERA 3.73 FIP

The theme continues with Adam. Good strikeout to walk ratios, but just gets hit hard and often. The FIP is better than the ERA by nearly two runs, but hitters are hitting .286 off of him. He's repeating AA and has been possibly worse this go round. Getting tougher to see him in a major league rotation.

17. Marten Gasparini - SS .273/.333/.333 96 wRC+

Easy to get excited about this guy given his history and mystique around him, but if we see him on the Royals by 2018 then that'll probably be a surprise. Super raw and has work to do with the bat. The glove and speed are excellent. If he can end up hitting then maybe he could replace Alcides Escobar after his 2017 option runs out.

18. Scott Blewett - SP DNP

Interesting pitching prospect. Like his big frame, but I generally want to see more velocity from a guy his size. He had it in starts this year but tapered off down the stretch.

19. Samir Duenez - 1B/OF Lexington/Idaho Falls .232/.268/.324 64 wRC+/83 wOBA+

Really tough start in his first full season. So poor that they made him mark time in Lexington until Idaho Falls started play and then sent him down there.

Really solid last year in the AZL league as a 17 year old and had higher hopes for him this year. Raw, but the hit tool is better than he's shown this year.

Reports on him were solid coming out of the backfields this spring. Could be a guy two or three years from now in the Top 10, but not happening this year and maybe not next year either.

Was the youngest player in the Sally League this year.

20. Sam Selman - SP 7.88 K/9 4.88 B/9 4.00 ERA 4.43 FIP

Kind of a mercy killing here. Never had huge hope in Selman and I made a mistake last year placing him at #8 after seeing flashes on back of rotation potential. As a bullpen arm he could be a fringe Top-10 guy, but as a starter it isn't ever going to happen for him given the control profile. Still a "prospect" and could spend time in a major league pen, but to me that would be his ceiling now.

Guys who fell off:

Zane Evans - C Wilmington .237/.304/.329 81 wRC+/100 wOBA+

Maybe it's Wilmington, but I liked what I saw from Evans last year in Idaho Falls, but this year he's a different player. Lots of ground outs it seems and he's hacking more than I'd like to see.

Alexis Rivera - OF Idaho Falls .222/.255/.333 56 wRC+

Liked what I saw from his 18 year old self in 2012, and for the most part in 2013 as he moved up to Idaho Falls, but has fallen flat this year in what is his third season in a Rookie League.

Daniel Rockett - OF Wilmington .221/.278/.313 66 wRC+/86 wOBA+

Rockett is one of those guys you like what you see in his pro debut and take a flier on hoping he can somehow continue those results higher up. He hasn't done that. I had him ranked 19th last year so not a large fall, but he did a little bit of everything in Idaho Falls last year; power, average, and played good defense.

Unfortunately he's met the monster that is Frawley Stadium. K/B profile is basically the exact same and hasn't had any luck in the BABIP department.

Cody Stubbs - 1B Wilmington .208/.281/.387 86 wRC+/90 wOBA+

Like Rockett, Stubbs was a bit of a flier. Came from an elite college school in UNC where he hit well his junior year, and like basically every hitter in Wilmington has been poor.

MiLB Mid-Season Top 50

1. Kris Bryant (CHC, 3B)

2. Oscar Taveras (Stl, OF)

3. Byron Buxton (Min, OF)

4. Carlos Correa (Hou, SS)

5. Dylan Bundy (Bal, RHP)

6. Lucas Giolito (Was, RHP)

7. Javier Baez (CHC, SS)

8. Addison Russell (Oak, SS)

9. Jonathan Gray (Col, RHP)

10. Francisco Lindor (Cle, SS)

11. Noah Syndergaard (NYM, RHP)

12. Taijuan Walker (Sea, RHP)

13. Hunter Harvey (Bal, RHP)

14. Miguel Sano (Min, 3B)

15. Corey Seager (LAD, SS)

16. Albert Almora (CHC, OF)

17. Robert Stephenson (Cin, RHP)

18. Joc Pederson (LAD, OF)

19. Archie Bradley (Ari, RHP)

20. Brady Aiken (Hou, LHP)

21. Joey Gallo (Tex, 3B)

22. Julio Urias (LAD, LHP)

23. Tyler Glasnow (Pit, RHP)

24. Clint Frazier (Cle, OF)

25. Jorge Alfaro (Tex, C)

26 Kyle Zimmer (KC, RHP)

27.  Jameson Taillon (Pit, RHP)

28. Henry Owens (Bos, LHP)

29. Carlos Rodon (CWS, LHP)

30. Alex Jackson (Sea, C)

31. David Dahl (Col, OF)

32.  Raimel Tapia (Col, OF)

33. J.P Crawford (Phil, SS)

34. Raul Mondesi (KC, SS)

35. Kohl Stewart (Min, RHP)

36. Jose Berrios (Min, RHP)

37. Austin Meadows (Pit, OF)

38. Alex Meyer (Min, RHP)

39. Jorge Soler (CHC, OF)

40. Hunter Dozier (KC, 3B)

41. Arismendy Alcantara (CHC, 2B)

42. Austin Hedges (SD, C)

43. Jesse Winker (Cin, OF)

44. Sean Manaea (KC, LHP)

45. Matthew Wisler (SD, RHP)

46. Dan Norris (Tor, LHP)

47. Braden Shipley (Ari, RHP)

48. Stephen Piscotty (Stl, OF)

49. Blake Swihart (Bos, C)

50. Aaron Sanchez (Tor, RHP)

I'm missing someone and I know it. I deleted a name to move them to a differen spot then looked away and forgot who it was, and the fun thing was it was #25...

General musings:

Bryant is the best player in the minors right now hands down. The Troy Glaus comp doesn't seem too crazy anymore. His strikeouts could limit him to a sub-.280 average, but man...the power.

Bundy has been outstanding in his rehab with results and reports on his stuff being back. Still my #1 pitcher in the minors. Crazy good makeup and arsenal.

Giolito isn't far behind Bundy for me. Two possible eighty grade pitches plus his size and demeanor? Could be the best pick of the 2012 draft and he was selected 16th. He's the reason why teams gamble on injured pitchers in the draft.

I might be the only person in the country not name Dave Cameron who's that low on Archie Bradley. I know the fastball is elite, but where's the command and when will it come?

I didn't want to put Gallo that high, but I just couldn't argue against the numbers. If I truly believed in him he might be Top 10, but the contact issues scare me way too much no matter how many minor league home runs he hits.

Julio Urias is 17 years old and pitching well in A+ ball, and in the ultra hitter friendly California League. He should be enrolling for his senior classes right now...

Owens could be higher if he wouldn't Sam Selman every week.

Tough call between Tapia and Dahl. I like Tapia more, but Dahl is a little more advanced and older. Either way it's just one spot.