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A ranking of Royals prospects by combining all the rankings

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Who’s #1?

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Kansas City Royals Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The experts seem to agree, the Royals have one of the worst farm systems in baseball. That doesn’t mean we can’t unearth a few gems, however, and already we have seen a few Royals prospects get off to hot starts.

Who are the prospects to look for in the system? There is not a consensus top prospect as there has been in past years. Some evaluators prefer 2017 first-round pick first baseman Nick Pratto, others prefer the power of outfielder Seuly Matias, while others like the power-speed combo of outfielder Khalil Lee.

I wanted to combine all the top prospect rankings to come up with a composite ranking for Royals prospects. I took the Royals prospect lists from a few of the big time professionals who write about prospects - Bill Mitchell at Baseball America, the Baseball Prospectus staff, Fangraphs, Keith Law of ESPN, and the staff at MLB Pipeline (before the season began). Here are the top ten prospects for each evaluator:

Top ten Royals prospects from leading sites

Baseball America Baseball Prospectus Fangraphs Keith Law MLB.com
Baseball America Baseball Prospectus Fangraphs Keith Law MLB.com
Nick Pratto Seuly Matias Seuly Matias Khalil Lee Khalil Lee
Khalil Lee Khalil Lee Nick Pratto Nick Pratto Nick Pratto
Seuly Matias Nick Pratto MJ Melendez Seuly Matias Seuly Matias
Josh Staumont Josh Staumont Khalil Lee Hunter Dozier MJ Melendez
Eric Skoglund Foster Griffin Nicky Lopez Scott Blewett Michael Gigliotti
M.J. Melendez Nicky Lopez Michael Gigliotti Eric Skoglund Nicky Lopez
Nicky Lopez Trevor Oaks Eric Skoglund Foster Griffin Hunter Dozier
Hunter Dozier Eric Skoglund Richard Lovelady Nicky Lopez Eric Skoglund
Foster Griffin Scott Blewett Hunter Dozier Ryan O'Hearn Scott Blewett
Scott Blewett Michael Gigliotti Foster Griffin M.J. Melendez Foster Griffin

I also wanted the opinions of some of the better bloggers on prospects, so I included the opinions of Clint Scoles of Baseball Prospectus Kansas City, John Sickels of Minor League Ball, KC Shankland at Prospects 1500, Royals Farm Report, and of course, our own Shaun Newkirk.

Top ten Royals prospects according to bloggers

Clint Scoles John Sickels KC Shankland Royals Farm Report Shaun Newkirk
Clint Scoles John Sickels KC Shankland Royals Farm Report Shaun Newkirk
Khalil Lee Nick Pratto Khalil Lee Nick Pratto Richard Lovelady
M.J. Melendez Khalil Lee Seuly Matias Khalil Lee Chase Vallot
Nick Pratto Josh Staumont MJ Melendez Seuly Matias Trevor Oaks
Foster Griffin Foster Griffin Nick Pratto Hunter Dozier Gabriel Cancel
Hunter Dozier Hunter Dozier Trevor Oaks MJ Melendez Ryan O'Hearn
Michael Gigliotti M.J. Melendez Josh Staumont Foster Griffin Donnie Dewees
Nicky Lopez Eric Skoglund Nicky Lopez Donnie Dewees Scott Barlow
Seuly Matias Michael Gigliotti Miguel Almonte Nicky Lopez Emmanuel Rivera
Ricahrd Lovelady Seuly Matias Chase Vallot Richard Lovelady Michael Gigliotti
Emmanuel Rivera Richard Lovelady Erick Mejia Trevor Oaks Samir Duenez

In a composite ranking, I wanted to give greater weight to those in the know, who actually saw these players in person, and talked to industry professionals. Some ranked a top ten, some ranked as many as 50. I used a weighted point system, awarding 30 points to anyone ranked #1, 29 points to anyone ranked #2, and so on, giving just 1 point to anyone ranked past 30. Then I weighted the points differently, multiplying the points for the professional writers by three. I multiplied the points for John Sickels and Clint Scoles by two since they do have some professional contacts in the industry. With all due respect to the other writers, I left the other points unchanged.

I tabulated the numbers together to come up with a composite. It is not perfect - remember these rankings came out at different times, so some lists came out before the Royals had acquired Brad Keller, Burch Smith, Heath Fillmyer, Scott Barlow, Erick Mejia, or Trevor Oaks. Most of the lists came out before the Royals let go Miguel Almonte and Kyle Zimmer (who is back on a minor league deal). But they can still present a consensus on the system.

Here are the composite Royals prospects rankings.

25. RHP Brad Keller (71 weighted points) - The Rule 5 draft pick has already impressed in the first two weeks of the season. Shaun Newkirk liked him as a “power-arm of sorts”.

23 (tie). LHP Evan Steele (86)

23 (tie). LHP Daniel Tillo (86) - It is not surprising Steele and Tillo tied considering how similar their scouting reports are. They were taken in successive rounds of the 2017 draft last year, and both are tall, lanky lefties with a low delivery.

Clint Scoles likes Steele’s curveball and the deception of his arm angle, projecting his ceiling as a #3 starter. John Sickels notes Tillo had some first-round buzz before the draft, and can hit 96 mph with a plus slider. Scoles writes that Tillo can create good movement with his delivery with a good hard slider to boot.

22. RHP Burch Smith (89) - Smith is on the Major League roster now, having appeared in six games after being selected in the Rule 5 draft last winter. MLB.com says he has a “93-97 mph fastball with some life” and that he has a history of throwing strikes, although injuries have hurt his command.

21. 1B Samir Duenez (96) - John Sickels writes “optimists see a polished, mechanically-sound swing with solid defensive skills; pessimists say his power is inadequate for a first baseman and that his polish as a hitter is over-rated and not supported by the numbers.” Clint Scoles thinks his hit tool stands out and notes that adjustment have had him cut down on his groundball rate and tap into more power.

20. RHP Miguel Almonte (127) - Almonte is no longer with the Royals, having been traded to the Angels for cash considerations. John Sickels notes his “erratic track record” and durability issues, which was likely a factor in the Royals giving up on him. He had a low-90s fastball and a good changeup that profiled him as a reliever.

19. 2B Gabriel Cancel (157) - Clint Scoles also likes his pop, and thinks he has enough range to stick at second base, although he has has the arm to move to third and is big enough to play first. Shaun Newkirk has Cancel as his “super-sleeper in the system” with solid power.

18. OF Donnie Dewees (164) - Shaun Newkirk thinks he is “good enough to play every day in centerfield.” Clint Scoles thinks he would be playable in center if it weren’t for his weak arm, and notes he has better raw power in batting practice than in games. Baseball Prospectus has doubts about his ability to stick in center, and profiles him as more of a fourth outfielder.

17. C Meibrys Viloria (166) - John Sickels praises his athleticism but says he is still “working on finer defensive points.” Clint Scoles thinks the tools are there, but some adjustments will be needed to give him the chance to become a Major League starter. Shaun Newkirk notes he is a good bet to stick at catcher but needs to “add some loft to his swing.”

16. C Chase Vallot (167) - Shaun Newkirk notes his unprecedented power at such a young age, but admits “he’s a bad catcher” and that if the Royals move him off that position, he will drop in the rankings. John Sickels says teh power is a “real impact tool” but says the book is still out on him if he can hit at higher levels. Baseball Prospectus writes he struggles with off-speed stuff and profiles him as a “poor man’s Mike Napoli.”

15. RHP Trevor Oaks (195) - Baseball America calls him a “back-end starter” who is “built to eat innings.” Oaks is a groundball pitcher who relies on a sinker, and is a pretty polished product at this point without a whole lot of upside. Newkirk notes his “craftiness and groundball rates build some sort of foundation.”

14. 1B Ryan O’Hearn (238) - Shaun Newkirk has been a big O’Hearn fan, but admits “his AAA debut wasn’t as strong as you’d like for a guy who has to hit at each level he sees if he’s going to be first base-only.” Baseball Prospectus likes his raw power, but notes he has holes in his swing.

13. 3B Emmanuel Rivera (241) - Keith Law writes he has “60 raw power and makes plenty of contact”. Shaun Newkirk also likes his power and thinks he could fill out even more and work on his launch angle. Baseball America doubts his defense, saying he will likely end up at first base.

12. LHP Richard Lovelady (259) - Baseball Prospectus likes 98 mph fastball that is “downright filthy” when he locates it away. John Sickels thinks Lovelady is good enough he won’t be stuck as a lefty specialist. Shaun Newkirk writes he “has a good chance of being a decent or better reliever” posting 1-2 WAR per-season on a regular basis.

11. OF Michael Gigliotti (350) - Baseball Prospectus loves his control of the strike zone and his defense. Shaun Newkirk thinks a lack of power will limit Gigliotti’s upside. John Sickels thinks the power could come, but he wants to see what Gigliotti can do at higher levels.

10. RHP Josh Staumont (415) - Baseball America says he has “top-of-the-rotation stuff” with his 100 mph fastball, but that his key is developing control. MLB.com writes his curveball can be an absolute hammer with power and depth.” His lack of command worries Baseball Prospectus “despite relatively simple mechanics”.

9. 3B Hunter Dozier (425) - Baseball America touches on the adjustments he made to his swing to save his career, but notes he is a fringe-average defender at third, projecting him as more of a bench bat. Baseball Prospectus thinks his upside is limited, but notes there is “no reason he can’t be a cromulent major leaguer if he can stay on the field in 2018.”

8. RHP Scott Blewett (431) - Baseball Prospectus writes he is just a fastball/curveball pitcher, which limits his ceiling. Keith Law notes he “doesn’t miss as many bats as he should with that stuff.” Baseball America writes he has always been more about projection than production.

7. C M.J. Melendez (477) - Clint Scoles is high on Melendez, writing he “could eventually turn into Gold Glove level fielding behind the dish.” Baseball America says his calling card is his defense, with quick feet, soft hands, and a plus arm. Both Baseball Prospectus and Shaun Newkirk are down on prep catchers in general, but Newkirk notes Melendez is “truly interesting” and “hit pretty well in his pro debut.”

6. LHP Eric Skoglund (482) - John Sickels calls Skoglund a “finesse lefty who changes speeds and has to rely on his defense.” Baseball Prospectus notes his “solid control of all his pitches” and praises his “herky-jerky delivery” that creates difficult angles for hitters, despite a lack of overpowering stuff. Baseball America profiles him as a number four starter.

5. LHP Foster Griffin (505) - Keith Law thinks Griffin is a big leaguer, but maybe not an average starter with a fastball in the high 80s. Baseball Prospectus writes that his curve is his best chance at an out-pitch in the majors, and that he has plus control and average command. John Sickels say socuts were impressed with both his curveball and change-up. Baseball America projects him as a number five starter.

4. SS Nicky Lopez (520) - Keith Law thinks Lopez has a chance to be a regular, but notes his “off-speed pitch recognition will need to improve”. Baseball Prospectus loves his defense, calling him a “standout fielder”, but notes his lack of power will be a problem. Shaun Newkirk doubts he can be that valuable with little power unless his defense becomes Gold Glove-caliber. John Sickels praises his “polish, hustle, and feel for the game.”

3. OF Seuly Matias (598) - Clint Scoles quotes one Royals staffer as saying “this kid has some serious juice in his bat” and sees big-time power, but notes he will need to cut down on strikeouts. Baseball Prospectus writes he is a “tooled up archetypical right field prospect with big-time upside” but that he is still learning to control the strike zone. Keith Law says he is toolsy, but “not lost at the plate” like many toolsy international players. Shaun Newkirk doesn’t think the production last year matched the tools, but admits Matias has the highest ceiling in the system.

2. 1B Nick Pratto (626) - Baseball America profiles him as a “middle-of-the-order hitter thanks to a low-maintenance swing” and grades him as a plus defender at first. Keith Law calls him an “adequate defender” with “average power”, noting he didn’t blow scouts away last summer. Baseball Prospectus writes his “power stroke is raw at present, with a flatter swing plane geared much more consistently towards contact.” Shaun Newkirk compares him to Mets prospect Dominic Smith, although he admits Pratto is a better athlete.

1. OF Khalil Lee (632) - John Sickels writes he is at least average in all tools, with good patience at the plate. Baseball America projects him to be “an average hitter with more power to emerge.” Baseball Prospectus is impressed with his “pound-for-pound pop” but notes his strikeout rate is a red flag. MLB.com thinks he could be a Gold Glover at a corner outfield position with his strong arm. Shaun Newkirk wants to see one more year before buying in on Lee and putting him in his top ten list.

Others with more than 10 points: RHP Yefri del Rosasio (69), RHP Andres Machado (56), RHP Carlos Hernandez (51), OF Elier Hernandez (40), RHP Heath Fillmyer (36), RHP Glenn Sparkman (34), OF Bubba Starling (29), SS Jeison Guzman (27), RHP Scott Barlow (25), 2B Erick Mejia (21), LHP Eric Stout (20), 1B Frank Schwindel (15), C Sebastian Rivero (12)