The future success or failure of the Royals’ rebuild will depend largely on how much talent the farm system produces over the next few years. Talent evaluators seem to agree that the Royals’ system has taken big improvements, but still ranks in the middle of the league in overall talent.
The Royals are also developing some high-end talent. After a few seasons in which they didn’t place any players on Baseball America’s top 100 prospect list, they have at least two or three players on every major industry list, although who makes the list is a matter of disagreement among talent evaluators.
Top 100 prospects
|Publication||Royals prospects ranked|
|Publication||Royals prospects ranked|
|Baseball America||Bobby Witt, Jr. (#24), Daniel Lynch (#39), Jackson Kowar (#78)|
|Baseball Prospectus||Bobby Witt, Jr. (#29), Brady Singer (#64), Daniel Lynch (#93), Kris Bubic (#96)|
|Fangraphs||Bobby Witt, Jr. (#23), Daniel Lynch (#72), Kris Bubic (#110)|
|Keith Law||Daniel Lynch (#13), Bobby Witt, Jr. (#47)|
|MLB Pipeline||Bobby Witt, Jr. (#10), Brady Singer (#59), Daniel Lynch (#61)|
In fact, talent evaluators seem to disagree quite a bit on the order of who ranks as the best prospects in the organization. Here is a look at the top ten lists of major evaluators.
Top ten Royals prospects
|Ranking||Baseball America||Baseball Prospectus||Fangraphs||Keith Law||MLB Pipeline|
|Ranking||Baseball America||Baseball Prospectus||Fangraphs||Keith Law||MLB Pipeline|
|1||Bobby Witt||Bobby Witt||Bobby Witt||Daniel Lynch||Bobby Witt|
|2||Daniel Lynch||Brady Singer||Daniel Lynch||Bobby Witt||Brady Singer|
|3||Jackson Kowar||Daniel Lynch||Kris Bubic||Jackson Kowar||Daniel Lynch|
|4||Brady Singer||Kris Bubic||Brady Singer||Khalil Lee||Jackson Kowar|
|5||Kyle Isbel||Jackson Kowar||Erick Pena||Kris Bubic||Erick Pena|
|6||Erick Pena||Kyle Isbel||Jackson Kowar||Brady Singer||Kris Bubic|
|7||Khalil Lee||Khalil Lee||Kyle Isbel||Kyle Isbel||Kyle Isbel|
|8||Kris Bubic||MJ Melendez||Khalil Lee||Brady McConnell||Khalil Lee|
|9||Austin Cox||Zach Haake||Austin Cox||Brewer Hicklen||Jonathan Bowlan|
|10||Nick Pratto||Erick Pena||MJ Melendez||Seuly Matias||Carlos Hernandez|
I wanted to create a composite ranking list using the lists of the major publications. I used the rankings of the top professional prospect writers in the industry - Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, MLB Pipeline, Keith Law, and Fangraphs. I assigned point values based on a standardized top 30 prospect list, with the top prospect getting 30 points, the second-best prospect getting 29, and so on.
I also wanted to include the opinions of some major bloggers who also evaluate Royals prospects, so I included Alex Duvall at 1500 Prospects, Clint Scoles at Royals Academy, and our own Shaun Newkirk, giving their votes half as much weight as those of the major publications.
I combined those point totals and this is what I got - a composite ranking.
#1 Bobby Witt, Jr., shortstop (382 points)
The 2019 second-overall pick topped most lists, although Keith Law had him ranked second behind Daniel Lynch, Clint Scoles had him ranked third, and Shaun Newkirk had him fifth. Witt struggled a bit in his pro debut, but Fangraphs notes that there is a lot to like in the underlying batted ball data. Baseball Prospectus writes that “an even average hit tool would allow most of the power to play and for Witt to be a perennial all-star.”
#2 Daniel Lynch, left-handed pitcher (374)
Shaun Newkirk ranked him at the top of his list, writing that Lynch had separated himself from other by lacking any obvious flaws. Keith Law has Lynch at the top of his list, writing he is “really not far away and has the highest ceiling of any of the Royals’ stable of legit starting pitching prospects.”
#3 Jackson Kowar, right-handed pitcher (356)
Kowar topped the list for Clint Scoles, who wrote that the right-hander is a “middle of the rotation” pitcher who could become a top-of-the-rotation arm with a slight increase in velocity, improved command, or an improved slider. Fangraphs ranks him sixth, comparing him to Diamondbacks pitcher Luke Weaver, noting some see him more like Padres right-hander Chris Paddack.
#4 Brady Singer, right-handed pitcher (352)
MLB Pipeline and Baseball Prospectus both rank Singer second, although BPro notes that Singer does not have terribly high upside, writing he has “everything you could want in a pitching prospect, minus the blemish of not really having a plus, swing-and-miss pitch.” MLB Pipeline praises his “off-the-charts competitiveness”, projecting him for a “realistic future as a mid-rotation starter.”
#5 Kris Bubic, left-handed pitcher (332)
Bubic led the minors in strikeouts, but most of the evaluators still see him as a back-of-the-rotation starter. Fangraphs notes he was throwing harder this year, hitting 95 at times, with good deception and solid secondary stuff.
Kris Bubic led all minors with 185 strikeouts. Other pitchers to lead in K:— Royals Review (@royalsreview) September 3, 2019
2018 Dean Kremer BAL
2017 Alec Hansen CHW
2016 Brandon Woodruff MIL
2015 Jose Berrios MIN
2014 Taylor Cole TOR
2013 Dan Winkler COL
2012 Dan Straily OAK
2011 Edwar Cabrera TEX
2010 Matt Moore TBR
#6 Kyle Isbel, outfielder (322)
Isbel was hit with both a hamstring and wrist injury last year, rendering it a lost season. His injuries didn’t dissuade talent evaluators from ranking him in their top ten, with Shaun Newkirk ranking him as high as #3. Baseball Prospectus was impressed by his Arizona Fall League performance and wrote he has an “excellent feel for hitting, and many signs point towards him being an above-average hitter at the big league level.”
#7 Khalil Lee, outfielder (314)
Khalil Lee was second among all minor leaguers with 50 steals, but his power hasn’t quite developed as some may have hoped. Still, he shows excellent on-base skills and solid defense in center and should be Major League-ready some time this year. Keith Law has him ranked the highest at #4, writing he has a “cannon of an arm and can handle all three outfield spots, so if he gets to even average game power, he’s a regular with upside beyond that.”
#8 Erick Pena, outfielder (286)
Pena was the big international signing from last summer, inking a $3.8 million bonus with the Royals. He has yet to get into an organized game, but his tools earn him comps to Carlos Beltran. MLB Pipeline ranks him #5, writing that the 17-year old outfielder has “plus power and does not have a lot of swing and miss” with a high baseball IQ.
#9 MJ Melendez, catcher (256)
It was a rough year for Melendez in Wilmington, as the catcher hit just .163/.260/.311. Only Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus still have him as a top ten prospect among the industry leaders. Baseball Prospetus notes he still has the tools, writing that “if you disregard the hit tool Melendez looks like a star” but also raising the alarm about “significant timing issues” with his swing.
#10 Austin Cox, right-handed pitcher (255)
Cox gets overlooked, but he was another college pitcher from the 2018 draft class who had a solid season with a 2.76 ERA in 130 2/3 innings across Low-A and High-A last year. Keith Law likes his mid-90s fastball and 12-6 curveball, and projects him to be “at least a back-end starter but has some upside from there.”
#11 Carlos Hernandez, right-handed pitcher (241)
Hernandez was limited to just 57 2⁄3 innings this year due to a rib injury, but has shown enough promise that the Royals added him to the 40-man roster this off-season. Clint Scoles was the highest on Hernandez, ranking him seventh, writing that his fastball was an above-average pitch, regularly sitting at 92-97, with a peak at 101. His curve and change up will need more consistency, and he’ll have to stay on the mound more in the future.
#12 Brady McConnell, shortstop (209)
McConnall was selected in the second round out of the University of Florida as a shortstop last year, although he could move to the outfield eventually. He has good pop for a middle infielder, but has some contact issues. Keith Law was the only evaluator to have him as a top ten prospect, writing he’s an “outstanding athlete and plus runner who doesn’t steal bases” and could stick in center field.
#13 Jonathan Bowlan, right-handed pitcher (196)
Bowlan was another 2018 college pitcher draftee out of the University of Memphis, and he opened some eyes last year when he tossed a no-hitter for High-A Wilmington. Overall he had a 3.14 ERA with 150 strikeouts in 146 innings and just 23 walks. MLB Pipeline had Bowlan as their #9 prospect, writing that the 6’6’ right-handed has an intimidating presence and that he “commands his plus fastball well, sitting at 92-95 mph and touching 97 with sinking action that nets him groundball outs.”
#14 (tie) Seuly Matias, outfielder (191)
Matias suffered a broken hand early in the season, then never fully recovered as he had a miserable season for High-A Wilmington. The outfielder hit just .148/.259/.307 in 57 games before the Royals shut him down in August. Keith Law still has him as a top ten prospect due to his 80-grade power, chalking up the poor season to the injury concerns for now.
#14 (tie) Zach Haake, right-handed pitcher (191)
Haake had ugly numbers at the University of Kentucky, but the Royals straightened him out and he had an excellent 2.76 ERA with 94 strikeouts in 80 innings, mostly for Low-A Lexington. Baseball Prospectus has him as the #9 prospect, noting his mechanical flaws, but adding “his secondary offerings are near elite at times, but his fastball is the only consistent pitch at present.”
#16 Nick Pratto, first baseman (174)
Pratto is perhaps the most polarizing prospect with Baseball America ranking him #10, while Fangraphs had him #20, and all three bloggers leaving him off their lists entirely. The former first round pick struggled at Wilmington with Melendez and Matias, with the first baseman hitting just .191/.278/.310 with nine home runs ni 124 games and 164 strikeouts. Baseball America writes “while the results were subpar, Pratto impressed observers by consistently putting together good at-bats and staying mentally tough through his struggles. “
#17 Alec Marsh, right-handed pitcher (154)
Marsh was a second-round pick in 2019 out of Arizona State and fared well in Advanced Rookie Ball in Idaho Falls with a 4.05 ERA and 38 strikeouts to just 4 walks in 33 1/3 innings. Keith Law ranks him #11, writing he is a “very advanced pitcher with a four-pitch mix but nothing truly plus.”
#18 Brewer Hicklen, outfielder (124)
Hicklen was also fairly polarizing with Keith Law ranking him #9, Fangraphs ranking him #28, and Baseball Prospectus leaving him off their top 20. The outfielder was Wilmington’s best hitter, hitting .263/.363/.427 with 14 home runs and 39 steals in 125 games. Law likes his speed, writing “he’d be a superb extra outfielder who can substitute at all three spots, pinch-run and provide a right-handed option off the bench who smokes lefties.”
#19 Tyler Zuber, right-handed pitcher (112)
Zuber is a releiver out of Arkansas State who dominated Wilmington with a 1.23 ERA before moving up to Double-Arkansas and holding his own with a 2.42 ERA. Overall, he had a 1.79 ERA with 68 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings. Only Fangraphs (#13) and MLB Pipeline (#28) ranked him among the experts, but all three bloggers liked Zuber quite a bit, with Shaun Newkirk writing he is a “kitchen sink throwing reliever who could end up in high leverage situations.”
#20 Jeison Guzman, shortstop (100)
The Royals signed Guzman to a $1.5 million bonus out of the Dominican Republic, and his glove has impressed them enough to add him to the 40-man roster. His bat hasn’t quite come along yet, as he hit .253/.296/.373 with 7 home runs in 121 games for Low-A Lexington as a 20-year old. Baseball America is highest on him, ranking him #13 and writing he is “slowly generating more quality at-bats, staying in the zone better and staying on the ball through his swing”.
Others: OF Michael Gigliotti, LHP Daniel Tillo, RHP Yefri del Rosario, OF Nick Heath, OF Darryl Collins, RHP Jon Heasley, RHP Grant Gambrell, 2B Gabriel Cancel, LHP Richard Lovelady, RHP Josh Staumont, 1B Ryan McBroom, LHP Evan Steele, SS Maikel Garcia, RHP Yohanse Morel, RHP Charlie Neuweiler, 1B Logan Porter, RHP Brandon Marklund, LHP Josh Dye, 3B Emmanuel Rivera, LHP Foster Griffin, 2B Michael Massey, 1B Vinnie Pasquantino, RHP Noah Murdock
You can see a complete point breakdown here.