One of the more exciting storylines for the Royals this season hasn’t been related to the major league club. It has been a 19-year-old slugger on the Royals Low-A Lexington Legends squad. Former big-bonus international signing Seuly Matias has been doing some extraordinarily noticeable things.
If you follow the Royals minor league system and the prospects that come with it, you’ll know two things about Matias. First, he has some remarkable pop in his bat. Second, he has very sub-par plate discipline skills. To describe this in a nutshell, here are lines from two of his most recent games.
- June 2nd: 2 for 3, 2 HR, BB
- June 3rd: 0 for 4, 3 SO
Night-by-night, Matias will consistently have games like the two shown above. Both come to represent some of his insane peripherals, like a .399 ISO and a 37.1% K%. What makes those peripherals more out of the ordinary relates to where he currently is in his development. At 19 years and nine months of age, he is one of the 38 teenagers among qualified Low-A hitters this season. For a broader view, going back to 2006 (FanGraphs minor league data only goes back to 2006), he is one of 366 teenagers. Being a teenager and playing in Low-A isn’t exactly rare, but they are a considerable minority, making up only 16.8% of qualified hitters at that level. The average age for a player in Low-A is 21.4.
For this examination, I felt like the best way to get a grip on the season Matias is having is not to compare him to all Low-A hitters in general, but to compare him to those 366 teenagers that have played at this level. It would be unfair to compare him to a bunch of 23-year-old non-prospects that have put up big numbers against younger competition. The main stat I wanted to compare with is ISO, as I feel like it is the stat that best represents the level of power a player is displaying. What I found was really dramatic.
Top 15 ISO’s among teenagers in Low-A since 2006
|Seuly Matias||2018||Royals (A)||19||175||0.399|
|Joey Gallo||2013||Rangers (A)||19||446||0.365|
|Giancarlo Stanton||2008||Marlins (A)||18||540||0.318|
|MJ Melendez||2018||Royals (A)||19||183||0.269|
|Miguel Sano||2012||Twins (A)||19||553||0.263|
|Bobby Bradley||2015||Indians (A)||19||465||0.259|
|Drew Waters||2018||Braves (A)||19||169||0.258|
|Nick Williams||2013||Rangers (A)||19||404||0.25|
|Travis Demeritte||2014||Rangers (A)||19||466||0.239|
|Fernando Tatis Jr.||2017||Padres (A)||18||518||0.239|
|Trevor Story||2012||Rockies (A)||19||548||0.229|
|Miguel Amaya||2018||Cubs (A)||19||200||0.229|
|Cody Johnson||2008||Braves (A)||19||514||0.226|
|Jay Bruce||2006||Reds (A)||19||498||0.225|
|Oneil Cruz||2018||Pirates (A)||19||219||0.224|
Wow. Matias and his stupidly high .399 ISO lead by a mile on a list filled with some big names (Joey Gallo, Giancarlo Stanton, Miguel Sano, Trevor Story, and Jay Bruce) and some guys you’ve probably never heard of. Also worth giving a shoutout to MJ Melendez, coming in at fourth. And yes, Matias does have a smaller plate appearances sample size than most of these guys, but with the lead he currently has on them, there’s a decent chance he stays at the top of that list.
We’ve all heard about the hit tool issues with Matias. If his development ever stunts, it will because of that. Among all of the Royals top prospects, he’s definitely near the bottom in that department.
Hit tools for Royals top prospects
|Nicky Lopez||KCR||45 / 55|
|Ryan O'Hearn||KCR||40 / 45|
|Hunter Dozier||KCR||40 / 40|
|Emmanuel Rivera||KCR||35 / 50|
|Gabriel Cancel||KCR||35 / 50|
|Bubba Starling||KCR||35 / 35|
|Michael Gigliotti||KCR||30 / 50|
|Meibrys Viloria||KCR||30 / 45|
|Khalil Lee||KCR||30 / 40|
|Nick Pratto||KCR||25 / 60|
|Chase Vallot||KCR||25 / 30|
|Manuel Melendez||KCR||20 / 45|
|Seuly Matias||KCR||20 / 40|
The struggles have been imminent in that category too (37.1% K% is second highest in Low-A). And it still doesn’t get any better when you compare him to his peers age-wise.
Top 10 K% among teenagers in Low-A since 2006
|Lewis Brinson||2013||Rangers (A)||19||503||38.0|
|Juan Duran||2011||Reds (A)||19||404||37.6|
|Seuly Matias||2018||Royals (A)||19||175||37.1|
|Joey Gallo||2013||Rangers (A)||19||446||37.0|
|Travis Demeritte||2014||Rangers (A)||19||466||36.7|
|Denny Almonte||2008||Mariners (A)||19||408||36.5|
|Starling Heredia||2018||Dodgers (A)||19||212||35.8|
|Mason Martin||2018||Pirates (A)||19||169||35.5|
|Cody Johnson||2008||Braves (A)||19||514||34.4|
|Khalil Lee||2017||Royals (A)||19||532||32.1|
Digging a bit deeper though, there might be some hope. While there has been a big strikeout surge for Matias jumping to full-season ball, the SwStr% isn’t all that bad. Still standing at high 23.0%, it doesn’t seem as big when you compare him back to that group of teenagers, whose mean SwStr% is 21.5%. He’ll never be a guy who owns above-average plate discipline skills, but he might be able to improve on it slightly with time. Any improvements with that for him should be seen as a major boost to his profile as a prospect.
While we’re at it too, the also below-average BB% Matias has at 6.3% also seems less extreme when you put into consideration the average BB% for a teenager in Low-A is 7.9%. Again, not good, but not terribly bad. And since a rough April with the on-base skills when he posted a 3.9% BB%, he’s been walking an above-average rate since of 9.1%.
I completely understand there are a lot issues in the profile for Matias to be ironed out. He likely won’t make it down the line if they aren’t. I also wouldn’t even consider myself bullish on him, thinking about the extreme high-variance prospect he is. But with the rare raw power that he possesses, if he could just improve a little bit on the hit tool issues he has, which is a lot to ask in a prospect, the Royals could have themselves something really special.