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The top 25 Royals players under 25

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A system of young talent shapes the Royals future

2021 Sirius XM Futures Game
Bobby Witt headlines the Royals future
Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Teams build long-term success with young talent, and the players under the age of 25 are a good indicator of that and a team’s top commodity. The Royals sent plenty of players to the majors this year, but many of that group are 25 already or will be by opening day 2022. Who are some of the younger players coming behind them that the Royals can see contribute or turn into major league returns in the next few years?

  1. Bobby Witt, Jr. (age 21 on Opening Day of 2022) - There isn’t much discussion in this one. Witt’s near 30-30 season in his first full pro season just furthered his credentials. On opening day, Witt will still be 21 years old, Adalberto Mondesi’s same age when he made his debut. Both have amazing talent, but Witt’s game is more smooth around the edges, hopefully allowing him to get closer to his upside.
  2. Kris Bubic (24) - The only member of the 2018 draft class that won’t be 25 by Opening Day, Bubic once again flashed the stuff that could make him a middle-of-the-rotation starter. Left-handers like Bubic tend to get better with age as they improve their command and pitchability. Perhaps Bubic’s better years will be 28 on than 24-26, which could make him someone the Royals want to lock in after the 2022 season.
  3. MJ Melendez (Age 23) - Melendez has exhibited huge power and a big arm since being drafted, but his approach at the plate needed some ironing out after a rough 2019. He did just that in 2021 and showed off even more game power than anyone could have guessed he could get to. His swing mechanics are reminiscent of a Japanese player the way his backside is leaving behind the bat, but the bat is in the zone, and the strength does the rest. A 40 home run catcher is rarer than one thinks, even if the Royals already have one.
  4. Nick Pratto (23) - Pratto’s approach and in-game power improved while his sure hands and defense remained outstanding. The Royals signed Carlos Santana to a two-year deal that now looks like a roadblock for parts of 2022, but a repeat of 2021 should have him pressing to take over first base. He will immediately upgrade the infield defense when he lands in KC while he may offer what Santana once did in Cleveland with above-average power and patience at the plate.
  5. Asa Lacy (22) - Lacy had a rough go of things in 2021, but he’s still a lefty with an upper 90s fastball and above-average slider. He was a top five pick for a reason and needs to fine-tune his control and command while maybe pushing less. He has the tools with four pitches to push aside any of the starters outside of Hernandez in the current rotation if he can improve the command.
  6. Alec Marsh (23) - It was just six starts but Marsh struck out nearly 40% of the hitters he faced and exhibited an outstanding four-pitch repertoire. The velo is up over his draft season, the slider is tighter with more speed, and the changeup is improved. Show that he can repeat it all over a healthy full season and Marsh could be right there with Hernandez and Lacy as the most talented pitchers in the organization.
  7. Nick Loftin (23) - There wasn’t a hotter hitter in the system than Loftin over the final couple months of the season. Where does he play in the future? That’s a good question as he isn’t likely to unseat any of the shortstops at that position, but he offers versatility to play up the middle defense, third, and some outfield. Good teams need versatile players, and if one squints, the Royals could have their newest version of Ben Zobrist here.
  8. Vinnie Pasquantino (24) - In most systems, Pasquantino would have won player of the year with his work at High-A and Double-A. Contact skills, power, and very little swing and miss make him a nice high-floor prospect next to Pratto.
  9. Frank Mozzicato (18) - The Royals’ 2021 first round pick is the first on this list that isn’t likely to challenge for a roster spot in the next couple of seasons.
  10. Drew Parrish (24) - Parrish’s velo surprised me last year when I saw him as he was working regularly 92-94 while bumping 95 mph. His control is above average, his changeup is plus and his curveball is improved. The rotation is starting to fill up, but there will be injuries and failures along the way. Parrish is a nice left-handed insurance option to have at the upper levels when that happens.
  11. Will Klein (22) - Want a name to push his way into the bullpen in 2022? Klein is your prime suspect with hard and loud stuff. Make a small tweak to refine the control and he could be a reliever that works in the back of the bullpen.
  12. Michael Massey (24) - Massey provided some big power and some Chase Utley comps from the Royal brass this season. With sure hands, he has the makings of a quality second baseman with an offensive profile.
  13. Angel Zerpa (22) - Younger than Lacy with a good major league start under his belt Zerpa highlighted what he can do, attack hitters with his fastball and slider. It’s not a big swing-and-miss profile yet, but he’s young enough to continue to fine-tune and add more to the repertoire.
  14. Anthony Veneziano (24) - Veneziano could be a lefty that works in the bullpen in the future, but that’s not a bad thing. A lefty that can pump 98 in starts could find more in the pen. His breaking ball has improved and become a pitch he can get swing and misses with using it to tail away from lefties and back foot right-handers. Add in an okay changeup gives him three pitches from the pen where his average control can be fine.
  15. Maikel Garcia (22) - Likely the best infield defender in the system Garcia plays like his cousin Alcides Escobar with a better approach at the dish.
  16. Noah Murdock (23) - Up to 100 mph at times Murdock needs to prove he can stay healthy for an entire season. At 6’8 with extension he just needs two pitches and health to move quickly.
  17. Carter Jensen (18) - The next Royals stud catching bat? Scouts raved about Jensen post-draft saying he could be the steal of the draft of KC and if what he’s shown in Arizona is a hint, he could be just that.
  18. Sebastian Rivero (23) - Rivero looks like the Venezuelan Cam Gallagher at 23 years old. Even if the current KC catchers push him aside, there could be a long career as a backup catcher for Rivero.
  19. Darryl Collins (20) - Collins isn’t a typical Royals player with a little less athleticism than normal, but he makes up with advanced IQ. That approach and future strength give upside with his bat.
  20. Jeison Guzman (23) - Will he be in the system on opening day? That’s a good question for this toolsy shortstop and potential utility option. One would have liked better results at Double-A, but things have been a slow pace for the ‘15 signee as is.
  21. Ben Kudrna (19) - Hard-throwing local kid will likely get his first taste of minor league ball next year.
  22. Peyton Wilson (22) - The 2021 draftee has quite a bit of athleticism combined with hard contact and good contact skills in college. He could be a nice addition to the Loftin/Massey mix in the middle infield.
  23. Tyler Gentry (23) - Gentry made adjustments in the second month of his season, provided power and some patience before an injury shut him down. He has the power and defensive athleticism to be a factor if he can trim the strikeouts.
  24. Eric Cerantola (21) - Cerantola was a preseason first round talent before the wheels came off last year for Mississippi State. Still, you can’t teach that size and velocity with a hammer-breaking ball. This arm, like Klein and Murdock could dominate in the pen or maybe more if the Royals can find the right tweak.
  25. Seuly Matias (23) - One can’t teach this type of power. Unfortunately, one also can’t easily teach contact either. He can be beat with good fastballs, and he will find plenty of those at the upper levels. They found answers for Pratto and MJ, an answer here would be proof that things could be heading a better path for long-term performance in KC.

The Royals 2011 farm system was outstanding and eventually produced a World Series but there wasn’t much of a second wave. These players are part of the current second wave outside of Bubic and Witt. For the Royals to turn into a legitimate long-term contender then Kansas City will need to turn many of them into major league contributors with one or two becoming more than that.