Last week we took a look at the veteran non-roster players in Royals camp. There are also minor league farmhands who are not on the 40-man roster, but still received an invite to big league camp as a reward, to receive experience with the big league players, receive instruction from big league coaches, to be evaluated, and to help give Eric Hosmer a rest after a few innings in exhibition games. Here are the minor leaguers invited to big league camp as non-roster invitees.
Arteaga signed a $1.1 million bonus out of Venezuela in 2010, but has failed to hit much in his professional career. The infielder has close to zero power, no plate discipline, appears to be terrible at stealing bases, and hit .208 in 58 games after being promoted to AA Northwest Arkansas last year. The 23-year old is said to be a plus defender, but it is hard to see him having much of a future at this point.
The right-hander has flown under the radar as a prospect, but has put up solid numbers at each stop. He posted a 2.45 ERA in 110 innings in both a starting and relief role for AA Northwest Arkansas last year, with just 23 walks. He doesn’t strike out many hitters, which is why he hasn’t made prospect lists, and he seems to get by with a fastball in the low-to-mid 90s with good sinking action. The Venezuelan native is 25 years old, so he is not particularly young, but you could see him in Kansas City at some point this summer.
Culver turned down a football scholarship to San Diego State to play for the Royals, then spent a few years in the infield before giving the pitcher’s mound a chance. He has shown the ability to miss bats as a reliever, striking out 8.2 hitters-per-nine innings, but he has trouble walking hitters. He throws in the low-to-mid-90s with a two-seamer, curveball, and change up. The 27-year old posted a 3.86 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 67 2⁄3 innings for Omaha last year, and re-signed as a minor league free agent.
The 26-year old left-hander posted strong numbers in the low minors, although he was old for his level having been drafted after his redshirt junior year at Lamar University in Texas. His numbers regressed last year in AAA Omaha, with a 4.05 ERA and 4.0 walks-per-nine innings. His fastball is ordinary, sitting in the low 90s, but he is known for having a plus curveball. He may find more success as a lefty specialist out of the pen and could find himself in Kansas City soon.
At age 17, Escalera was the youngest player ever selected in the draft, when the Royals took him in the eighth round of the 2012 draft. His hitting has been inconsistent however, with too many strikeouts and too few walks. The club has been waiting for some power to develop, but he has yet to show much pop. He has some speed, but will need his bat to develop more to reach the big leagues. Still just 21, he hit .277/.299/.376 in 50 games at AA Northwest Arkansas after a promotion from Wilmington last year. The Puerto Rican outfielder has been cited for his maturity, and has been involved with many charities off the field, winning the “Mike Sweeney Award” from the Royals for his character.
Evans was a fourth-round pick by the Royals in 2013 out of Georgia Tech. He projected as a catcher with a strong arm who needed some work defensively but could hit for power. That power never materialized however, and Evans is probably in camp to help catch all the pitchers in camp. The 25-year old hit just .226/.262/.333 in 63 games for AA Northwest Arkansas last year.
Son of the Red Sox manager, Luke overcame cancer to become a sixth-round pick for the Royals out of Northwestern. Farrell struggled initially, but came on strong in 2015. Last year, in AAA Omaha, he posted a 3.59 ERA in 91 innings, but his peripherals were not very good, with too many walks and not enough strikeouts. Farrell will not overwhelm with velocity, but he should know a thing or two about pitching and could be an option to start in a pinch for the Royals if he performs well in Omaha.
Fernandez burst onto the scene by hitting .329 in Rookie Ball Burlington in 2015, but his numbers fell back to earth last year. He hit just .259/.320/.387, but flashed good power with nine home runs in 92 games and a solid 8% walk rate. The right-handed hitting catcher was originally an 11th-round pick out of Puerto Rico and is in camp just to give pitchers someone to throw to, but the 21-year old could be a player to keep an eye on.
Morin has been a backup catcher in the organization since being a 14th round pick in 2012 out of Utah. In 2015, he came on to .309 in 56 games for AA Northwest Arkansas, but he showed that was an aberration, as he hit .184 last year for Omaha. He is in camp as an extra catcher, and will likely return to Omaha to be a backup.
The 23-year old first baseman has some of the best power potential in the organization. He hit 22 home runs between Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas last year, hitting .275/.351/.478 overall. The Sam Houston State product has not hit for much average in the minors, but has a strong 10% walk rate, although strikeouts are a big problem. O’Hearn did not hit for much power in the Arizona Fall League last year, but could find himself starting in Kansas City in 2018 should Eric Hosmer depart.
The Royals did not have a first-round pick in the 2016 draft, due to signing Ian Kennedy, so second-rounder A.J. Puckett was their top pick. The right-hander out of Pepperdine had a 1.27 ERA for the Waves, overcoming a serious head injury from a car accident. He had solid, albeit not spectacular numbers in his first pro season, with a 3.68 ERA but just 6.9 strikeouts-per-nine innings. The 21-year old could be a fast riser in a system thin with pitchers.
By most accounts, Skoglund is one of the top ten prospects in the Royals system. The former Central Florida right-hander has moved quickly through the system, putting up a 3.45 ERA in 156 1⁄3 innings for AA Northwest Arkansas last year, just his second full season in the pros. He doesn’t blow you away with his strikeout numbers, but he is a strike-thrower, having walked just 58 hitters in 263 pro innings. With a solid season, Skoglund could be very much in the mix for a rotation spot in the big leagues next spring.
The Royals have a thin system, but Staumont has perhaps the highest upside. The right-handed pitcher can hit triple digits on the radar gun and has the strikeout numbers to prove it. He has struck out 12.4 hitters-per-nine innings in his pro career, including 167 whiffs in 123 1⁄3 innings last season across Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas. However he has major command issues, walking an astonishing 7.5 hitters-per-nine innings in his career. He showed some improvement in the Arizona Fall League last year, but will need to show major improvement this season to have a shot at a rotation spot. Otherwise, the Royals may have him sort things out in the bullpen, where he could become a dominant closer.
Stout was promoted rather aggressively in 2016, skipping High A ball and going straight to AA ball after just 16 games in low A ball last year. He responded well, with a 3.86 ERA in 72 1⁄3 innings of relief. Most encouragingly is his strikeouts took a huge spike upward, as he struck out 8.6 hitters per-nine-innings in the Texas League. Stout is still just 23, so if he can keep his walks in line, he could compete for a left-handed relief role, perhaps as soon as this year.
Toups is a gamer that draws raves from coaches as a middle infielder. He doesn’t seem to excel in any one area of the game, but is very solid in every aspect. He can hit for average, draw some walks, show good pop for an infielder, run a bit, and play solid defense. The 24-year old hit .275/.358/.450 with 10 home runs in 86 games for AA Northwest Arkansas after his promotion from Wilmington last year. He can play both middle infield positions, although he fits better at second base. He was teammates with O’Hearn in college, and the two could find themselves as teammates in Kansas City next year.
Vallot may have the best pure power in the Royals system, but he will need to cut down on his strikeouts. The 19-year old catcher smashed 13 home runs in just 86 games for Low A Lexington, although he struck out 118 times. He can draw some walks, but has hit for a very low average thus far. His defense behind the plate is still a work in progress, but he’ll get some good reps in camp working with Salvador Perez and catching Major League pitchers.