It’s only mid-April and there are a lot of games in the season left to play for the Kansas City Royals. After all, we’re only through 16 games in a 162-game slate. Still, though, this team is not off to a strong start and there is plenty to dislike at the Major League level right now. The Royals are striking out at the third-highest rate in all of baseball. By wRC+ they’re still the worst-hitting team in all of baseball and regularly struggle to score runs. As a team, Kansas City has hit just .188 with runners in scoring position.
Things will turn around in time for the big league roster. There are still some things to be hopeful about, such as Bobby Witt Jr.’s hot streak. But the club simply isn’t winning right now, making it difficult to be very passionate about the Royals. With so little going right at the MLB level, why not turn some attention to the minor leagues? The Royals system has some bright spots early. The Storm Chasers rank third in home runs and fifth in runs scored. Northwest Arkansas has the third-best ERA in the Texas League to start the season. The system has some great things happening right now, including some players you may not be watching for. Here are three players enjoying a hot start to the 2023 season that you should know:
David Sandlin, RHP, Columbia Fireflies (A)
Sandlin was an 11th-round pick by the Royals in the 2022 draft. Despite being a later-round selection, he’s a name to watch moving forward. The Royals signed Sandlin for $400,000 — a value closer to that of a 5th-round pick last draft — to keep him from returning to the University of Oklahoma. To start his 2023 season, the Royals have Sandlin at Low-A Columbia pitching as a starter for the Fireflies. So far this season, he’s made two starts and pitched to a fantastic 1.86 ERA.
His most recent start on Friday saw Sandlin pitch 5.0 innings, allowing just two hits, and one run while striking out nine RiverDogs hitters. At 6-foot-4, the 22-year-old right-handed pitcher offers a solid frame that should create good extension. His pitch mix features a low fastball that sits 92-94 and a fantastic curveball. It’s still early into his professional career but Sandlin is certainly a name to monitor moving forward for the Royals.
Luca Tresh, C, Northwest Arkansas Naturals (AA)
Luca Tresh, currently ranked as the 13th-best Royals prospect by MLB Pipeline, has picked up right where he left off to end last season. He offers a solid mix of discipline and power at the plate that helped him reach base in 17 straight games at one point in 2022. He started somewhat slow at the plate this year with just three hits in his first 23 at-bats. However, that all started to change on Sunday.
Not only does Luca Tresh have legs, but he’s also got a heck of a bat as well. Tresh finished the day 3/3 with 5 RBI, 2 walks, a sacrifice fly, and an inside-the-park home run. That strong day at the plate raises Tresh’s average to .231 on the season. He’s now slashing a robust .231/.400/.654 with three home runs over his first eight games of the season.
Peyton Wilson, 2B, Northwest Arkansas Naturals (AA)
Nobody in the entire organization has a higher average than Peyton Wilson’s .395 to start the season. He was a second-round pick by the Royals in the 2021 draft and finished the year strong for Quad Cities last season after a slow start. In all, he finished the year with 14 home runs and a .815 OPS over 88 games for the River Bandits. Over the season’s final two months, however, he turned it on to another level. He slashed .302/.412/.543 over 2022’s final 33 games and he’s picked up right where he left off so far in 2023.
That's HR1 on the year for red-hot Peyton Wilson. pic.twitter.com/aRJPpAWUDp— Preston Farr (@preston_b_farr) April 16, 2023
Wilson went 4/6 on Saturday with a double and two RBI. He followed that up with a 3/6 day on Sunday with a double and his first home run of the season. Despite not drawing a walk all season so far (his walk rate was 10.5% in 2022), he’s getting on base thanks to a sky-high average and he’s done well to limit strikeouts — only 15.4% so far this season. The 23-year-old infielder has a .395/.385/.579 slash line to start the season with a 148 wRC+. The AA debut is off to a scorching start for Pipeline’s 20th-ranked Royals prospect.