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Friday Notes - December 20, 2019

We’re talking prospects, both current and former. Oh, and a new third baseman.

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Florida vs Texas Tech
Jun 17, 2018; Omaha, NE, USA; Florida Gators pitcher Brady Singer (51) throws against the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the first inning at TD Ameritrade Park. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

With all that fast action before and during the winter meetings, we’re not actually waiting on that much this offseason. Well that’s not entirely true. The Royals are waiting to shop in the bargain bin toward the end of the offseason, which has some people upset for some reason, but I completely understand and agree with their logic on that front. The big key for them is when they do find their bargains to find better ones than they had. Easier said than done, sure, but they’ve been pretty bad on that front over the last few years. I guess maybe the bigger issue is not sticking with guys for so long. With that, they actually did do better, releasing Chris Owings way sooner than anyone expected they would (even if it was way later than I would have) and even moving on from Brad Boxberger relatively quickly. So I guess we’ll see if they can do better on all those fronts in 2020. For now, I think we’ll have to endure some quiet weeks before free agents get desperate enough to sign for the price they’re being offered from clubs like the Royals.

  • I personally love the days when prospect lists come out for the Royals. On Wednesday, Baseball America unveiled the 2020 list and it consisted of most of the guys who I would have had on my list, just maybe in a different order. One thing about BA is that they really hover on tools and, to a lesser extent, draft position. I’m not saying that’s right or wrong, but it’s clear that their methodology leans on that quite a bit. So that’s why I think Nick Pratto found himself still in the top 10 after hitting a gentleman’s .191/.278/.310 in Wilmington this past year. Many have mentioned the work he’s done with Drew Saylor and Keoni De Renne this offseason, so maybe that’ll have an impact, but I would hope he’ll go back to Wilmington at least to start 2020. As for my list, I’m not sure Pratto would make the top 20, let alone the top 10. Fine, since you didn’t ask, here’s my top 10:
    1. Daniel Lynch
    2. Bobby Witt, Jr.
    3. Jackson Kowar
    4. Brady Singer
    5. Kris Bubic
    6. Khalil Lee
    7. Kyle Isbel
    8. Nick Heath
    9. Erick Pena
    10. Austin Cox
    I considered Brewer Hicklen for the bottom of the top 10 and I also had Jonathan Bowlan and MJ Melendez in mind, but that’s where I landed.
  • The Royals ended the 2019 season with four prospects in the BA top 100 list, which I think is where they’ll end up in 2020 with the same four guys. I could see maybe Isbel sneaking in because they really like his tools, but I’d bet on those four. One thing the Royals did recently was sign Braden Shipley to a minor league deal. That’s a move that is decidedly unlikely to mean anything given that he hasn’t posted an ERA below 5.00 in AAA since 2016 as a 24-year old, but he was ranked in the top 80 of all prospects on all three major lists as recently as before the 2016 season. I am completely on board with the strategy of signing former top-100 prospects to minor league deals and seeing what sticks. I said it on Twitter, but what’s the worst that can happen in a season where they’ll likely be lucky to lose fewer than 95 games? Chance Adams was just DFAed by the Yankees to make room for some guy named Gerrit. Put in a claim, take him on. He’s been awful in the big leagues, but that spin rate is something special. Kohl Stewart is out there. Has he been any good? No way, but why not try it? Okay, maybe not all former top-100 prospects. But it’s a good idea. You never know what you might find, and, again, if it doesn’t work, you move on and feel good for trying.
  • They did sign another former top-100 prospect yesterday in Maikel Franco, and it sounds like he’s going to be the every day third baseman with Hunter Dozier moving to right field or first base. I put some of my thoughts on Twitter, but I’ll rehash a little and maybe even expound here. He’s 27 and has had a really strong big league season before. The problem is that season will be five years in the rearview mirror when the next one starts. I was surprised a bit that the defensive numbers on him are as solid as they are, but what I see from him is an average to slightly above average bat at best with everything else coming in below average to average. For $3 million, it’s not really much, but I also despised the Chris Owings deal at the same money, and they’re more similar than you might realize given their age. The biggest difference is that if they wanted Franco, they actually did have to give him a big league deal as the third base market is pretty dry with a lot of teams in it. With a player like Franco, you hope you can find ways they can improve by tweaking this or that and that might be the case mechanically, but looking at the stats, I don’t think there’s much he can do. He doesn’t strike out much, he doesn’t swing at an inordinate number of bad pitches and he hits the ball reasonably hard and barrels it decently enough. The biggest hope that I can see is that because he does make contact and he makes decent contact, the bigger outfield at Kauffman Stadium could be a big benefit to him. He has enough power to keep outfielders honest and that means that I think he could see a pretty decent BABIP jump moving from his former cozy park to this one (plus 18 games in Minnesota and Detroit). I think it puts Dozier in a spot where his skills play better as he wasn’t very good at third, so that’s a plus, but it also puts a squeeze on playing time for a few guys who probably are worried they don’t have a spot right now. If Alex Gordon comes back, that leaves center field or second base as the only open spot on the field, so one of Nicky Lopez, Bubba Starling and Brett Phillps is going to find significant playing time. These things sort themselves out, but that’ll be interesting to follow.
  • There have been some reports out recently saying that Brady Singer would get every shot to make the 2020 rotation out of spring training. That jives with what I’d heard all the way back in September and mentioned in the past. He and Kowar are for sure going to be given chances in spring training, though I do think Singer is the only one to get a real look that early. On one hand, I sort of wonder if they want him to skip the silly ball in AAA, which while yes it’s the same ball as in the big leagues now, it just feels like a different league. On the other hand, the guy has 148.1 professional innings under his belt. And they were pretty good too, plus he got better as the season went on in AA, but he’s faced 613 batters at the professional level. I don’t know that he’s ready. I don’t know that he’s not ready. And then there’s the contract and service time issue with him. Put him on the roster immediately and you only have him for six years, rather than seven if you give him a month or two in the minors. But on the flip side, does it really matter that much? On the other flip side, we’ve seen what top flight starting pitchers are getting on the free agent market, so if Singer is what the Royals hope he will be (which I don’t think he is personally), wouldn’t they want to delay losing that? These are a lot of questions that I can truly see both sides on, but personally I’d go out and sign Ivan Nova or someone for cheap, let them take the fifth starter role and either move him or figure out who needs to go to the bullpen in mid-June when Singer is more big league ready and go that route. I understand they want to win at the big league level, but I’d much rather be cautious than overzealous with one of their top prospects.