This week, Baseball Prospectus released its list of Top Ten Royals prospects for 2016, with few surprises at the top of the list.
1. SS Raul Mondesi
Mondesi has been the consensus top prospect in the system, despite his underwhelming minor league numbers. Mondesi hit just .243/.279/.372 for AA Northwest Arkansas last year, but Baseball Prospectus argues his speed and defense along should provide value. He is just 20 years old and made his Major League debut in the World Series last year. Baseball Prospectus has ranked him as the 16th-best prospect in baseball.
As one executive put it, Mondesi just "needs to learn to calm the hell down." If he can, he’s a potential All-Star, but if not, he’s more of a bottom-of-the-order hitter who still provides value with his legs and glove.
Mondesi will probably begin next year at AAA Omaha, but could be the starting second baseman before too long if Omar Infante does not rebound with the bat.
2. RHP Kyle Zimmer
Almost everyone agrees that Zimmer has terrific stuff, the only question with him is his health. Overall, he is still ranked as the 89th best prospect in baseball, although his stock has been falling. Baseball Prospectus hints that it would not be a terrible idea to move Zimmer to the bullpen just to keep him healthy, but most likely the Royals will give him every chance to start. Zimmer pitched just 64 innings last year, but will likely be given a chance to at least compete for a rotation spot, although his chances of making it out of spring training are slim.
3. RHP Ashe Russell
Baseball Prospectus is much more bullish on the Royals' 2015 first round pick than other publications. Baseball America ranked Russell sixth and John Sickels ranked him fifth in the system. Russell threw just 36 innings last year after being drafted with mediocre results, but its obviously all about stuff for the 19-year old. Baseball Prospectus likes his ability to throw strikes and thinks Russell has the repertoire to compete as a starter. They also cite the system's lack of depth as a reason to rank a player so far away from the big leagues this high.
4. RHP Nolan Watson
Fellow Indiana prep star Nolan Watson comes in at #4 for the Royals. Watson was Kansas City's compensation pick in 2015 and he put up less impressive numbers than Russell in limited innings. Baseball Prospectus writes that his ceiling is lower, but his floor is higher than Russell's. He does not throw with the same velocity as Russell but his secondary offerings are more polished at this point.
5. OF Bubba Starling
Bubba has become a bit of a lightning rod among Royals fans for not developing as quickly as some would like, but Baseball Prospectus acknowledges he took a huge step forward last year. They praise adjustments in his swing and his performance in the 2015 Arizona Fall League. They project him to be anywhere from a "top of the order guy" to a fourth outfielder.
The high-end five-tool profile isn’t quite there anymore, but there’s still 20-homer and 20-steal potential in there somewhere; and betting on upside is never a bad thing.
6. RHP Miguel Almonte
Royals fans saw a flash of Almonte last September when he joined the team after rosters expanded. Almonte had mixed results in 2015, but did show an ability to miss bats, even at the big league level. Baseball Prospectus ranks Almonte lower than Baseball America (#4) or John Sickels (#3), saying he took a big step backwards in 2015. They write that Almonte has trouble throwing strikes and lacks consistency, suggesting a move to the bullpen could be in his future.
7. LHP Foster Griffin
Griffin struggled last season with a 5.06 ERA in low A Lexington, and Baseball Prospectus writes his velocity is not "elite" and his curveball is a "problem." Nonetheless, they see enough "flashes of brilliance" to include him in the top ten. They write that 2015 was likely a "bump in the road" for Griffin, but he profiles as more of a back-of-the-rotation starting pitcher and another poor season could take him out of the top ten.
8. C Chase Vallot
Baseball America and John Sickels both omitted Vallot from their top ten lists, with Sickels not even including Vallot in his top 20 ranking. Vallot hit just .219 with 105 strikeouts in 80 games for low A Lexington, but with 13 home runs and 41 walks. Baseball Prospectus likes his power and plate discipline, but notes his swing is long. They think his defense behind the plate is a work in progress, but that he should stick at the position. They cite that his upside is as a backup catcher with pop, but it should be noted Vallot is just 19 years old.
9. RHP Scott Blewett
Blewett was a 2014 second-round pick whose numbers regressed in 2015. His strikeouts fell to 6.6 per-nine innings for low A Lexington and he allowed 51 runs in 81 1/3 innings with an ERA of 5.20. Baseball Prospectus still likes his 96 mph fastball, but notes his curveball and changeup need a lot of work. Blewett is cited for having the highest ceiling of any pitcher in the system other than Russell, but also note his presence on the list is due to the system being thin.
10. 3B Hunter Dozier
Dozier had a disastrous 2015 season, but Baseball Prospectus still believes in the 24-year old infielder from Stephen F. Austin. The 2013 first-round pick hit just .213./281/.349 for AA Northwest Arkansas last year with a whopping 151 strikeouts in 128 games. They note his defense is still quite good, and believe there is still time for his bat to turn around. However, doubts persist.
More than one scout I spoke with believed it was time to give up on the profile— with one executive calling him a "lost cause." His approach has gotten worse each year, and his long, unorthodox swing with only solid-average bat speed gives him serious contact issues.
Players just missing the list include 1B Balbino Fuenmayor, OF Alfredo Escalera-Maldonado, RHP Josh Staumont, RHP Alec Mills, and OF Brandon Downes.
2016 Royals Top Ten prospect lists:
|Baseball Prospectus||Baseball America||John Sickels|
|SS Raul Mondesi||SS Raul Mondesi||SS Raul Mondesi|
|RHP Kyle Zimmer||RHP Kyle Zimmer||RHP Kyle Zimmer|
|RHP Ashe Russell||OF Bubba Starling||RHP Miguel Almonte|
|RHP Nolan Watson||RHP Miguel Almonte||OF Bubba Starling|
|OF Bubba Starling||RHP Nolan Watson||RHP Ashe Russell|
|RHP Miguel Almonte||RHP Ashe Russell||RHP Josh Staumont|
|LHP Foster Griffin||SS Marten Gasparini||OF Jorge Bonifacio|
|C Chase Vallot||LHP Matthew Strahm||LHP Foster Griffin|
|RHP Scott Blewett||RHP Scott Blewett||RHP Nolan Watson|
|3B Hunter Dozier||3B Cheslor Cuthbert||OF Elier Hernandez|