The first of three major prospect lists (Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and FanGraphs) came out earlier this morning. Baseball America announced their Top 10 Royals prospects for 2016. A little later this afternoon they'll also host a chat about the Royals organization on their website (which you can find linked in the top 10 list). Here are their rankings with my thoughts on each prospect.
1. SS Raul Mondesi
Mondesi was signed out of the Dominican Republic at 15 years old. He is the son of former big leaguer Raul Mondesi and brother to Raul Mondesi Jr in the Rays organization. He finished the regular season in AA where he was excellent with his glove, but struggled with his bat. He ended up on the World Series roster in October.
2. RHP Kyle Zimmer
Zimmer is a former college third baseman-turned pitcher in college. He was drafted by the Royals fifth overall in 2012, but has pitched just over 225 innings in his career due to injuries to his shoulder and back. Zimmer has some of the best pure stuff in the minors but has had trouble being healthy the past two years.
3. OF Bubba Starling
Starling was drafted by the Royals out of Gardner Kansas at fifth overall in 2011 and was given the largest signing bonus for a hitter and high school in draft history. Starling has had his ups and downs with a strong pro ball debut followed up by two declining seasons that saw him hit just .218/.304/.338 in A+. He made some changes at the plate and in his return to A+ tore the league up before being promoted to AA and hitting fine there. Though he needs some more time in the minors, he's been rumored to get a shot in the majors some time this year.
4. RHP Miguel Almonte
Almonte was an international sign for the Royals in 2010 who made his major league debut this year in the bullpen. He's hovered around this spot the past few years in the Royals prospect rankings. Almonte struggles with his command and inconsistencies at times but has some of the best stuff in the Royals organization in his fastball and changeup.
5. RHP Nolan Watson
Watson was drafted this past June with the 33rd overall pick the Royals had for losing James Shields. The Indiana high schooler brings more floor than ceiling but has the makings of a mid-rotation pitcher at his peak.
6. RHP Ashe Russell
Russell was drafted this past June (21st overall) as well out of an Indiana High School like Watson, though his potential ceiling is much higher. Some scouts saw Russell as one of the best pitchers in the 2016 draft while others saw his potentially as a reliever. Russell and Watson will likely be paired at the hip which each other, moving up the organizational levels together.
7. SS Marten Gasparini
Perhaps the most surprising name on this list is the young Italian shortstop even at seventh. He was given the largest signing bonus for a European player ever but injuries slowed his debut. Now 18, Gasparini played an entire season (though in short season rookie ball) and showed his rawness in both the plate and the field. However his tools are favored at this point given his young age.
8. LHP Matt Strahm
Strahm had one of the best seasons among Royals minor league pitchers this year. Strahm was a 21st round pick out of Neosho County CC in Kansas, originally hailing from the snowy movie town made famous by the Coen brothers in Fargo, ND. Strahm missed all of 2013 and most of 2014 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Strahm has struck out over a batter per inning at every level and saw a step forward in command.
9. RHP Scott Blewett
Blessed or maybe cursed with a bad last name for a pitcher, Blewett was taken by the Royals in the 2nd round (56th overall) in 2014. He's one of the tallest pitchers in the minors at 6'6" and has a fastball that reaches 96 MPH at times. The future is very open for Blewett and at times it's hard to put a ceiling on him. His size and arsenal could make you see a future #3 pitcher but his loose command at times pegs him more for a back of the rotation piece.
10. 3B Cheslor Cuthbert
Cuthbert has been in the Royals organization for what seems like a decade now. Signed by the Royals out of Nicaragua, Cuthbert has played first, second, and third base, as well as the outfield in the minors either in game or practice. He made his pro debut this past season and saw 19 games. He struggled at the plate and defensively in the minors he's been poor. However he looks to eventually have a more permanent role in the Royals future big league plans over the next few seasons as either a utility player or a full time role if there's an injury.