I’m going to give Royals fans a pass for not all being prospect junkies like myself. Over at Royals Farm Report, our team covers the Royals minor league system in a depth that probably seems a bit ridiculous. Everyone knows the names Richard Lovelady, Nicky Lopez, Khalil Lee, Seuly Matias, etc. But there’s one more guy I want you to add to your list of names to know, because after today I’m not going to give you a pass anymore for never having heard of him.
Gabriel Cancel is a second base prospect currently playing in the Carolina League (A+) for the Royals affiliate, the Wilmington Blue Rocks. Standing 6’ 1” 185 lbs., Cancel is not your prototypical second baseman. He’s a big kid that has a powerful swing and plenty of athleticism to boot. He’s got good feet and quick hands, and gives me plenty of reason to believe he can stick at 2B long-term.
Prospects are something that I have a lot of fun with. The world of Minor League Baseball is vast and it is strange. Part of the reason that the minor leagues are so much fun to follow is because they’re mostly made up of kids chasing a dream. The other reason is that, as fans of a Major League Baseball team, it’s fun to get to know your team’s future before they arrive. Gabriel Cancel is a name that you need to know before he gets to Kansas City, because he’s got a shot to be a really, really productive player.
Drafted in the 7th round back in 2015 out of Puerto Rico, Gabriel Cancel has done nothing but hit since making his professional debut. In 2016, as a 19-year old playing for the Royals rookie affiliate in Burlington, NC, Cancel slashed .291/.346/.494/.840 with 129 wRC+ in 46 games. He followed that up with another excellent season in Lexington in 2017, slashing .277/.324/.466/.790 with a 125 wRC+ in 103 games.
At the end of the 2017 season, Cancel was looking like one of the best bats in the Royals system. Playing adequate defense at 2B raises his value even further, and the guys over at Royals Farm Report thought enough of Cancel to put him in our top 10 on our first bi-annual top 100 list. Shaun Newkirk here at Royals Review had him all the way up to number four on his personal Royals prospect ranking.
Yet, the good people over at MLB Pipeline have Gabriel Cancel all the way down to 21 on their current Royals prospects list and that list doesn’t include Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, or any other 2018 draft picks. You could make the argument that if they were to interject the aforementioned pitchers, Kyle Isbel, Daniel Lynch, Kris Bubic, and maybe one or two others, that Cancel would be dangerously close to not having a spot on MLB Pipeline’s top 30 Royals prospects list.
This is why you follow along with your local media, folks, we wouldn’t lead you astray.
Gabriel Cancel got off to a bit of a slow start to his 2018 season. He posted a .577 OPS in 14 games in April, and only hit two total home runs in April and May combined. In 43 games since June 5th, however, Gabriel Cancel is slashing .333/.395/.519/.914 with 12 doubles and 6 home runs in 43 games, good for a wRC+ up over 150. He’s been on fire at the plate and hitting for plenty of power, which is not easy for a middle infielder in the Carolina League (A+).
I’ve been pushing for a Gabriel Cancel promotion for a couple of weeks now. There are a couple of guys on the Royals AA and AAA teams that I think can and should be moved in order to make room for Cancel. Pairing him back up with Khalil Lee in the top half of the NWA Naturals (AA) lineup would give Royals fans in Springdale, AR, an exciting look at the Royals future. Unfortunately for Cancel, the Wilmington Blue Rocks are in the middle of a playoff race. So, fortunately for Wilmington, it looks like Cancel may stick around a little while longer.
There are several prospects in the Royals system that you need to be familiar with, and Gabriel Cancel is absolutely one of them. A guy who is lesser known by a majority of Royals fans, Cancel is making some serious noise down on the farm and deserves the attention of the Kansas City faithful.