When you think of the Royals I’d imagine the last thing you think of is second base. Well, maybe it’s the first thing you think of because of how bad it has been since about the time Frank White retired. Since 1991 (the first year the Royals were without White) Royals second basemen have contributed just 14.3 fWAR, with ~30% of that coming solely from Jose Offerman’s 1998 season. The last time the Royals had a top 100 ranked second base prospect was 1999 with Carlos Febles, who was basically out of baseball by age-27.
Unfortunately it doesn’t seem like anyone in the system is on their way to curing the keystone woes of the major league club. The Royals current second baseman (Raul A. Mondesi) is only there temporarily and he was worth -0.5 fWAR in 149 plate appearances. He belongs at SS where his glove and speed play better, and his below-average bat is softened.
Ramon Torres - 24 years old; .259/.295/.327 65 wRC+
I liked Torres a few years back as a potential utility guy (a good outcome for someone the Royals paid nothing for back in 2009). There was good speed, some ability to make contact, and defensively capable to play SS/2B/3B. Torres has played SS a bit more than 2B for his career but I see him at 2B more than SS where he’s a better defender and his arm plays better.
There is essentially zero power and the once potential 55 hit tool is more like a 45/50 now. He seems like he’ll be Alcides Escobar but at 2B (not a great combination).
Corey Toups - 23 years old; .275/.358/.450 133 wRC+
Eventually when I get to the outfielders I’ll talk about Khalil Lee. Toups is the 2B version of Lee to me in a way. He always seemed like Johnny Giavotella to me and this year had a breakout stat-wise in AA over 86 games. He’s not a big dude but there is some power in the bat (like Gio) and good contact when he makes it. I’m not sure he’ll make enough contact in the major leagues to offset the lack of good in-game power.
Defensively he started out at SS but wasn’t working there so he slide over to the other side of the bag where he’s been just okay. He won’t contribute enough there defensively to be an asset but maybe there is a reality where if you squint hard enough you could find a 50 hit tool, 45 in game power, 45-50 speed, 50 defense. That takes a really hard squint (you may go permanently blind) but it’s possible.
Austin Bailey - 23 years old; .256/.312./.333 79 wRC+
Let me just start off with saying Bailey is an org guy/non-prospect. I wanted to cover at least one guy from each level and Bailey is probably the most interesting guy on the Blue Rocks this year. As you can see he didn’t hit well this year but in 2015 he tore up the Pioneer and South Atlantic League in his pro debut.
Bailey was a 2015 21st rounder out of the University of San Diego where he played alongside Kris “Sparkle” Bryant and former Royals farm hand Logan Davis (who was released in April).
Travis Maezes 23 years old; .196/.289/.409 101 wRC+
On the surface, Maezes’ line doesn’t look too good. He struck out a bunch and didn’t get on base much. However the most important figure for Maezes is the slugging percentage portion, and that’s surprising. His power is what buoyed his wRC+ despite the other 66.667% of his triple slash line. His raw power is there and it’s above average but questions where how it will play with his swing (similar to Hunter Dozier).
The other thing to consider was that Maezes was injured coming out of college and didn’t play at all in his draft year. With 2016 as his debut (he missed instructionals as well) he wasn’t great at the plate but wasn’t a total disaster due to his walk-rate and power. Defensively I think most see him as a 3B and the arm would be wasted a bit at 2B, but with 2B being a damn black hole since the Clinton administration, let’s just try him there for now.
I was higher on Maezes than most and am ready to see what a 100% healthy full season will look like.
DJ Burt - 21 years old; .257/.335/.338 98 wRC+
Maybe you recognize Burt from the bonkers 68 game on base streak he had that covered two seasons (2015 to April of 2016). Burt’s your typical speedy, athletic, and twitch-laden multi-sport athlete that’s extremely fun to watch play. He’s a pretty good defender at 2B and has some innings at SS and 3B to hopefully carve out and prove a utility role. At worst he’s a defensive-minded utility guy/pinch runner but there’s a chance for a good defender with an 80-90 wRC+ due to the ability to reach base.
Gabriel Cancel - 20 years old; .291/.346/.494 129 wRC+
There is a world where every big short stop stays at the position because that’s what we as baseball fans deserve. Unfortunately that’s not a reality and the 6’1” Cancel’s ideas of playing SS were...Cancelled. He moved to 2B where the spot is his likely only destination as he doesn’t have the arm for 3B really.
His power is true to his frame and if he can make contact consistently it will play. He’s a below average runner and just okay fielder so the bat will be his calling card. I can see Cheslor Cuthbert (but at 2B) from him but he’ll have to see how the okay bat speed plays higher up the level.