MLB 2020 Farm System Overview: Kansas City Royals

While we wait for the 2020 MLB season to get underway, it’s time to take a closer look at players who could one day be on opening day rosters. For the next month or two, we’ll be examining each team’s farm system, which will contain several prospects that will either one day be contributors for them, or could be used to acquire impact major leaguers. 

Since we’ll be going in alphabetical order by city, our 12th farm system overview will be of the Kansas City Royals. We’ll rank their top ten prospects, discuss some of their other notable minor leaguers, and then analyze the overall state of the farm system.

#1: SS Bobby Witt Jr.

wittjr
Photo Cred: KSHB.com

Age: 19

Height: 6’1″ Weight: 190 lbs

Drafted: 2nd Overall-2019

Hit: 47.5 Power: 65 Field 60 Arm: 60 Speed: 60

Overall Grade: 57.75

Clearly the top high-school prospect in the 2019 MLB draft, Bobby Witt Jr. was clearly the Royals’ target from the start with the second overall pick, and thanks to Adley Rutschman’s presence in the draft, Kansas City got who they wanted. With potentially elite power thanks to simply absurd bat speed, as well as great athleticism, it’s clear the 19-year-old has five-tool superstar potential. That’s far from a sure thing, as he has significant swing-and-miss concerns, which comes from an aggressive approach, but being polished is not required for a high-school prospect; it is now up to the Royals to properly develop his on-base skills. Nevertheless, even if that doesn’t go as planned, Witt’s 30-40 home run power, in addition to his gold-glove defense, gives him a very high floor. His worst-case is essentially Paul DeJong, with the ceiling of a generational shortstop. The Royals have been looking for the face of their rebuild, and by drafting Witt Jr., it appears they’ve found their much-needed young star.

#2: RHP Brady Singer

singer
Photo Cred: ABC News

Age: 23

Height: 6’5″ Weight: 210 lbs

Drafted: 18th Overall- 2018

Fastball: 57.5 Breaking Ball: 57.5 Third Pitch: 50 Command: 57.5

Overall Grade: 56.75

Heading into the 2018 MLB draft, Brady Singer was a darkhorse candidate to be the top pick in the draft, and seemed like a lock to be drafted in the top five. Instead, he shockingly fell to the 18th overall pick, where the Royals were able to make the easiest selection in the entire draft. The former Flordia Gator isn’t the type of pitcher who is going to blow you away with any particularly overpowering pitch. However, he’s able to mix the movement on his fastball well to keep hitters guessing, and his slider has solid depth. Therefore, he’ll be able to miss more than enough bats to succeed in the majors, especially considering he does a great job of limiting walks and outsmarting hitters with different pitch mixes and deception. I’ve seen Singer as a Corey Kluber-type of ace ever since the draft, and after faring well in his first season in the minors, he’s done nothing but reinforce that assessment. He’s on track to make his major league debut this season, and should be an extremely reliable high-end #2 starter right from the start.

#3: LHP Daniel Lynch

daniellynch
Photo Cred: MiLB.com

Age: 23

Height: 6’6″ Weight: 190 lbs

Drafted: 34th Overall- 2018

Fastball: 60 Breaking Ball: 55 Third Pitch: 52.5 Command: 55

Overall Grade: 56

Usually, when you draft a college pitcher, he’s a finished product, so barring injuries, there don’t tend to be any surprises with his development. However, that wasn’t the case with Daniel Lynch, who after being drafted 34th overall out of Virginia, saw an uptick in his pitching arsenal last summer. All of a sudden, the 23-year-old sits in the mid-90s with his fastball, and with two sharp breaking balls and a strong changeup, he has the makings of a true wipeout pitcher. This is great news for the Virginia product, as he already had a great feel for pitching and command, so in total, he’s a pretty complete pitcher. Even with my high grade for him, which places him within the top 30 prospects in the game, I feel as though I may be underrating Lynch. Between him and Singer, the top of the Royals rotation looks set for the future.

#4: OF Khalil Lee

khalillee
Photo Cred: MiLB.com

Age: 21

Height: 5’10” Weight: 170 lbs

Drafted: 3rd Round- 2016

Hit: 50 Power: 52.5 Field: 52.5 Arm: 65 Speed: 55

Overall Grade: 53.35

Khalil Lee may have been just a third-round pick, but that doesn’t reflect his true talent coming out of high school in 2016; the Royals gave him an over-slot bonus to sign with them. Since debuting in professional ball, the 21-year-old has yet to cut down on his strikeout rate, but in the end, I’m not sure it’ll matter. After all, Lee’s walk rate has sat in the double-digits in every year, which means that he’ll be able to maximize his athleticism by constantly being on base. Plus, although his power hasn’t yet translated, there’s plenty of raw power to be excited about, while his speed and arm strength profile well in center field. Lee is far from a finished prospect, but his ceiling is that of a five-tool player. He may not be included in the “tier 1” group of Kansas City’s farm system, but he’s certainly Kansas City’s top prospect outside of the “big three”.

#5: OF Seuly Matias

matias
Photo Cred: The Kansas City Star

Age: 21

Height: 6’3″ Weight: 198 lbs

Signed: July 2, 2015

Hit: 40 Power: 60 Field: 50 Arm: 70 Speed: 52.5

Overall Grade: 52.925

After posting a 138 wrc+ and homering in the Futures Game in 2018, outfield prospect Seuly Matias looked to be a budding star in Kansas City’s farm system. However, his stock has taken a major dip since then, as his wrc+ (67) was nearly cut in half, and his strikeout rate (44.3%) was simply inexcusable- I’ve never seen a player strikeout at the rate that Matias does. Yet, I still have plenty of optimism regarding a bounce-back year for him. Though it didn’t show up as much this season, the 21-year-old’s raw power is tremendous, and he could seriously be a 40 home run hitter in the future; his walk rate (11.1%) also did improve, so there’s still a lot to like with his offensive profile. Defensively, Matias will never be a world-beater, but with his elite arm strength and satisfactory athleticism, he’ll be an above-average right fielder in the future. Many may be giving up on Matias after his disastrous 2019 season. However, he did suffer a fractured hand last season, and although his strikeout rate is horrendous, the rest of his skill set is very enticing. I still see him as a future everyday right fielder in a couple of years.

#6: LHP Kris Bubic

bubic
Photo Cred: MiLB.com

Age: 22

Height: 6’3″ Weight: 220

Drafted: 40th Overall- 2018

Fastball: 52.5 Breaking Ball: 50 Third Pitch: 60 Command: 50

Overall Grade: 52.875

The Royals ended up selecting five college pitchers with their top five picks in the first two rounds in 2018, and although most of those prospects are prototypical pitchers, Stanford’s Kris Bubic was far from it. Even now, he’ll never light up the radar gun, as his fastball sits in the low 90s, and his breaking ball isn’t a consistent offering at the moment. Yet, the 22-year-old is able to get the job done, thanks in large part to his fading changeup, which is a dominating pitch versus righties and lefties. Plus, as seen in his picture above, Bubic’s funky delivery is able to create plenty of separation, so he’s able to keep hitters off-balance tremendously. Obviously, he’s never going to be a frontline starter, but in a way, Bubic may be the safest of Kansas City’s abundance of pitching prospects; he feels like almost a lock to be a #3 or #4 starter.

#7: RHP Jackson Kowar

jackson-kowar-royals-1-678x381
Photo Cred: Prospects1500

Age: 23

Height: 6’5″ Weight: 180 lbs

Drafted: 33rd Overall- 2018

Fastball: 57.5 Breaking Ball: 50 Third Pitch: 60 Command: 50

Overall Grade: 52.875

The pitcher-heavy 2018 draft class was a great story, as right after selecting Singer, the Royals drafted his college teammate in Jackson Kowar. Certainly the lesser-known of the two, Kowar’s a solid prospect in his own right. His fastball touches 97 MPH, and plays really well with his fading changeup, Sure, you’d like from him to have more consistent command or spin a better breaking ball, but if you’re going to have a two-pitch mix as a starter, a fastball and changeup is the best way to go. My main issue with the 23-year-old is his short stride length, which hurts his perceived velocity, and could also hurt him in the future. However, he’s posted solid walk rates and ground ball rates so far, and overall, he’s a pretty safe prospect. Similar to Bubic, he should slot into the middle or back-end of the Royals rotation by 2021 at the latest.

#8: OF Erick Pena

erickpena'
Photo Cred: The Athletic

Age: 16

Height: 6’3″ Weight: 180 lbs

Signed: July 2, 2019

Hit: 52.5 Power: 55 Field: 50 Arm: 52.5 Speed: 50

Overall Grade: 52.375

The Royals have always had a decent presence in the international market, but heading into the year, they lacked a young, high-end prospect that wasn’t drafted recently. By giving outfielder Erick Pena a $4 million bonus, they may have changed that for the better. Pena’s not a great athlete, so he’s not your standard 16-year-old prospect; instead, it’s his refinement that entices scouts. He’s seen as a disciplined hitter with good leverage, so he should be an all-around offensive contributor from the left side. He’ll never wow you with his defense, but I really like his outlook down the road as a bat-first corner outfielder- his makeup is tremendous. In a farm system that doesn’t have a lot of position players, it wouldn’t surprise me if Pena rises to near the top this list in the future, especially as the MLB-ready pitchers exhaust their prospect status.

#9: 1B Nick Pratto

nickpratto
Photo Cred: Royals Review

Age: 21

Height: 6’1″ Weight: 195 lbs

Drafted: 14th Overall- 2017

Hit: 47.5 Power: 52.5 Field: 60 Arm: 60 Speed: 42.5

Overall Grade: 52.075

Even though he wasn’t a very consistent player, Eric Hosmer was a fan-favorite in Kansas City, and when he left the team in the 2017 offseason, a void was left at first base. That’s where Nick Pratto, who was drafted just before Hosmer’s departure, comes into the equation. He’s much more athletic than your typical first baseman, and has the arm strength to also do well in the outfielder, but at first base, he’s a true gold glove defender. Therefore, he’s the rare glove-first first base type, though that’s not meant to diminish his offense. He strikes out way too much and doesn’t have pure hitting ability, but he’s shown the aptitude to draw walks, and although he hasn’t tapped into his power yet, he should grow into it over time. I’d like to see more offensive consistency from Pratto, yet still, he has the power-defense combination necessary for him to be an everyday first baseman down the line. In a way, he’ll probably turn out to be better than Hosmer, who was erratic with his production anyways.

#10: C MJ Melendez

melendez
Photo Cred: MiLB.com

Age: 21

Height: 6’1″ Weight: 185 lbs

Signed: 2nd Round- 2017

Hit: 40 Power: 50 Field: 55 Arm: 60 Run: 42.5

Overall Grade: 51.125

Similarly to Hosmer, Salvador Perez has probably been overvalued during his time in Kansas City, but he’s been a fan-favorite, and it’ll be tough for the Royals to move on from him, even though they should. That’s what makes finding a true future catcher extremely paramount, and hopefully, MJ Melendez can be that for them. A strikeout rate of 39.4% in High-A this season tells you all you need to know about his contact skills, and his power is very inconsistent, so in the end, his offensive profile leaves a lot to be desired. That means he’ll have to be a strong defender behind the plate, and at the moment, he gets mixed reviews for his defense. He appears to be proficient in blocking ability with the chance to grow into a solid framer with plus arm strength, but it’s safe to say that he still has a lot of room to grow on that side of the ball. Maybe Melendez can be an everyday catcher down the line, but he’s not close to being a finished product. How he develops this season will be something to watch very closely for the sake of the Royals’ future.

Best of the Rest

  • Kyle Isbel doesn’t have a major weakness, but he also doesn’t have a standout skill, so he’ll probably be a fourth outfielder down the line.
  • Richard Lovelady has a great fastball-slider combination and solid command, so he figures to be a nice lefty relief option for the Royals for years to come.

Farm System Overview

It’s mostly come over the last two drafts, but suddenly, the Royals have one of the top farm systems in all of baseball. Witt Jr. is certainly the headliner, given his elite superstar potential, but it’s their collection of pitching prospects that are close to making their respective MLB debuts that stands out. They still have a lot of work to do, but if those pitching prospects transition to the next level properly, they could have one of the top rotations, and could even contend much sooner than expected. They still need more high-upside position players, and could stand to shop Whit Merrifield to add those types of prospects, but at the moment, there’s a lot to like about the Royals’ recent collection of young talent.

 

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