Last year, top Royals hitting prospects took baseball by storm, with Bobby Witt, Jr., MJ Melendez, Nick Pratto, and Vinnie Pasquantino earning praise from talent evaluators. The question now is when these players will infiltrate the Royals lineup. If the ZIPS projections developed by Dan Szymborski at Fangraphs are any indication, they are all ready to contribute now.
Szymborski released his ZIPS projections for the Royals today, and four of the projected top five hitters on the team by OPS+ are the quartet of hitting prospects, joining Salvador Perez. Pratto and Pasquantino top the list with a 112 OPS+, with each projected to post an on-base percentage over .320 and a slugging percentage over .460.
Bobby Witt, Jr. projects to.268/.323/.454 with 21 home runs and 23 steals, good enough for a 3 WAR season, which would be the fourth-best season by a Royals rookie hitter ever. Szymborski’s top offensive comp for him is Danny Tartabull, which he notes is a bit odd since they profile very different defensively.
A sneak peek at the ZiPS + @FanGraphs Depth Chart for the Kansas City #Royals. Full ZiPS up on Wednesday.— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) January 11, 2022
Note that the Royals are hurt that some of their most interesting projections aren't in this graphic! pic.twitter.com/VqWEfAu77a
Szymborski notes that the club has a very interesting problem in how to get their four minor league hitting prospects into the lineup. He writes that the Royals may be a mistake limiting Witt’s value by putting him at third when he could be a standout shortstop, and questions how they can make room for all their young players.
This question is crucial, because it’s those four that could possibly give the offense some actual upside in the next three or four years. If you manage to fit all of them in the lineup, if Perez continues to age well, and if you get some luck with Adalberto Mondesi’s health, all of a sudden, you have a pretty interesting core — one that’s actually enhanced by the Royals filling holes with whatever random inexpensive veterans are unemployed in March. As it is, it’s a particularly unambitious franchise that just kept running Michael A. Taylor and Hunter Dozier out there because they existed and nobody had any better ideas.
On the pitching side, he notes the upside is lower, although they project to have four league-average starting pitchers. He sees some upside for Carlos Hernandez, Asa Lacy, and Daniel Lynch, but notes they could continue to struggle in 2022. He calls the bullpen “meh” but does see some high upside in Scott Barlow, Dylan Coleman, and Domingo Tapia.
Is this a playoff team? Not quite. But Dan does see the positives.
Based on the roster the Royals have now, put me in the mid-to-high 70s in wins, with a real chance of hitting .500 if they show some aggression with promotions and get a bit of luck.
What do you think? What projections stand out to you?