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Kansas City Royals

Original Published Date: November 3, 2017

Well, that didn’t go well.

The Royals decided to go for it one more time and didn’t make it.  The result is that they got nothing for some valuable assets that they could have been moved at the deadline for future pieces.  While on the one hand, you have to applaud that willingness to “keep the team together”, it just will make it a long grind to get back to the top.  But, at least they have one World Championship and another Pennant in the trophy case.

The system is weak.  Nick Pratto leads the list though and is a nice prospect with a chance to be a quality first baseman.  He’s a teenager though and years away.  After that, there really isn’t any other impact talent.  That’s a problem and points to a long drought for the Royals to work through in order to build up their talent again.  It could easily take another five years if not more before the Royals are once again in contention.

But it’s about winning championships and therefore, they accomplished the goal.

Nick Pratto (1B)

Highest Level: Rookie, ETA: 2021, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 10 1B

As the Royals contemplate their long grind back to the top of the baseball heap, they decided to go back to a strategy that worked previously – drafting young positional players who could hit.  In 2008, they drafted then high schooler Eric Hosmer with the fourth overall pick.  He could hit, had good size with potentially plus power.  I think it’s safe to say, it worked pretty well.

This past June, the Royals decided to draft Nick Pratto, a high school first baseman who can really hit with the potential to hit for plus power.  He’s physically smaller than Hosmer and there is some disagreement on how much future power he will eventually have, but all accounts, his future is bright and he has a good chance to become an impact player at the highest level.

Scouting Report:  Despite his less than stellar statistical showing last season, Pratto can really hit.  He has an advanced approach with good strike zone awareness and that beautiful left-handed swing.  He also has good bat speed that should translate into above-average if not plus future power.  While he’s a first baseman, he’s pretty athletic with average speed that should translate into a handful of stolen bases annually.

Evaluators were torn on whether Partto would be drafted as a pitcher or hitter.  However, his size and ability to hit quickly won out but it should be noted that he has a strong arm. Given his athleticism, he could also be moved to right-field long-term if the situation warrants.

Fantasy Impact:  It’s unfair to put an Eric Hosmer comp on Pratto but there will be many people who do.  He’s physically different but does have many of the same characteristics.  I believe the upside is a .280 hitter with 25 home runs and a handful of stolen bases playing a great first base or right field.  I’ll let you go check baseball-reference to see who that resembles.

Khalil Lee (OF)

Highest Level: Low-A, ETA: 2020, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF

Khalil Lee graduates from our 2017 Emerging prospect to number two on our list after a nice season in Lexington where he showed both power and speed.  The bad news is that he struck out 34% of the time and if he doesn’t improve, number two is likely the highest he’ll ever be.

Scouting Report: Lee is a quality athlete with good bat speed and enough foot speed to consistently steal double-digit bases annually.  While he has an understanding of the strike zone, which he’s now demonstrated for two years in the minor leagues, his swing gets long as he tries to pull everything.  The Royals are working with him to go to the opposite field more so that he can cut down his strikeout rate.

He’s also a quality outfielder who rotated between center field and right field.  Because of his plus arm, he’ll likely settle into right, particularly as he matures and fills out.

Fantasy Impact:  Lee is an intriguing option in Dynasty Leagues.  He has a chance to hit for above-average power with enough speed to steal low double-digit stolen bases.  However, a strikeout rate of 34% in Low-A is troubling.  If he continues to whiff at that rate, he’ll likely not get on base enough, even with a 10% walk rate to let his other tools play.  While the upside is a number three outfielder, there is still a lot of work left in order for him to reach that ceiling.


Hunter Dozier (3B)

Highest Level: Triple-A, ETA: 2016, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 3B

I thought we would see Hunter Dozier play a lot in the second half for the Royals but it just was not meant to be.  The surprising “last gasp” that the Royals demonstrated convinced their front office to give it another go and therefore Lorenzo Cain, et. al were not moved as anticipate.  Plus Dozier did not cooperate, or better said, his body did not cooperate.  He missed time with an oblique injury and a broken hamate bone that limited him to 24 games in the minor leagues last season.

Scouting Report: Because of his limited playing time, I simply restated last year’s scouting report with a few edits.

With a shorter swing and improving plate patience, Dozier is once again on the prospect radar.  It’s a good thing because at age 25, now 26, Dozier needed to pull it together.  Having said that, I still don’t see him as an impact player; more of a solid everyday player at the highest level.

Last season, the Royals played Dozier at first, the outfield, and at third, his natural position.  While he can play all adequately, I ultimately see him as the natural replacement for Mike Moustakas assuming the Royals do not resign him.

Fantasy Impact: Dozier has a good chance to start 2018 as the starting third baseman in Kansas City.  The upside is 20 home runs, with a .260 batting average and a handful of stolen bases.  That’s not an impact performer in today’s game, but instead a complementary player you can get late in a draft if you decide to fill other needs early.  While I don’t see double-plus power emerging as we saw with Moustakas, I wouldn’t be surprised if he pops 25 to 30 in some years as he matures and grows in the game.

Nicky Lopez (SS)

Highest Level: Double-A, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 SS

After spending time in Double-A, I really like Nicky Lopez to get time in the big leagues next year at shortstop or at worse, competing for the starting job in 2019.  He profiles as a top-of-the-order bat who can get on base with a chance to steal 20 plus stolen bases.  In fact, his hit-tool is so advanced that he has walked more times than he has struck out in the minor leagues while posting a 9.5% strikeout rate.

Scouting Report:  Lopez is an intriguing prospect who is a true shortstop with plus speed and a plus hit-tool.  What he doesn’t have is power.  This could present challenges for him as the modern game expects at least average power at each position.  However, his swing is definitely geared for making contact and getting on base and I don’t see this changing.

But he can really hit.  He sees a ton of pitches in each at-bat and is just a frustrating out.  While he didn’t steal a ton of bases last year, I clocked him at 4.07 from the left side which is good for a 65 runner.

Fantasy Impact: Lopez is not a sexy name and with 30-grade power, his upside could ultimately be a utility player.  However, I’m investing in the hit-tool and speed and the likelihood that he will get playing time over the next couple of years as the Royals go through the rebuilding process.  I think he’ll have value.  In fact, think Kevin Newman of the Pirates but with more speed.  I’ll save you looking it up…Newman is owned in most Dynasty Leagues and Lopez is not owned anywhere.

Scott Blewett (RHP)

Highest Level: High-A, ETA: 2019, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 50 SP

Scott Blewett came close to making our list last year but after repeating Low-A and not performing well, I couldn’t convince myself he deserved it.  After seeing him pitch this year in Wilmington, I can safely say I was wrong.  I fell into the trap of scouting the stat line and not the player.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s far from a finished product but he has the size and the projectability that leads me to believe he will have a career at the highest level.

If you review the stat line from last season, it was pretty solid.  In 27 starts, he posted a 4.07 ERA striking out nearly eight per nine while walking three per nine.  He did give up 16 home runs which did cause some negative impact on his ERA.

Scouting Report: The first thing you notice about Blewett is his size.  He’s listed at 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds.  He looks the part – tall and thin.  He doesn’t have overpowering stuff, topping out at 93 to 94 MPH but as he fills out, I think he could easily put another couple of miles on his fastball.  His change-up and curveball both looked good at times but his curveball in particularly flattens out; and when that happened, batters jumped all over it.

His fastball does have natural sink and with the plane he gets on his delivery, there are plenty of ground balls that follow.  He does get into trouble when he elevates and that’s because his stuff is not good enough to pitch middle up.  However, as he matures and adds velocity, it should all come together and a nice mid-rotation pitcher should result.

Fantasy Impact:  Blewett is a guy I would be adding in Dynasty Leagues that roster 150 to 175 or less minor leaguers.  While the profile suggests a number three or four pitcher on a fantasy team, evaluators I spoke to said he could be more.  Candidly, I didn’t see that in my review but you can’t teach size and if he starts sitting 94 to 95 with sharper secondary pitches, he becomes a different pitcher.

Seuly Matias (OF)

Highest Level: Short Season, ETA: 2021, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 40 OF

Seuly Matias follows Raul Mondesi Jr. and Elier Hernandez as the three highest-paid Latin Players in the Royals organization.  Mondesi has already made it to the major leagues and while he didn’t play particularly well, his future is still very bright.  Hernandez power just hasn’t developed but he’s also still very young.  Matias signed two years ago and is just getting started but the early returns are encouraging.

In the Appy League, Matias slashed .243/.297/.423 in 57 games with a 3.5:1 strikeout-to-walk rate.  How is that…” encouraging”.  Well, he was one of the youngest players in the league and his .422 SLUG is well, encouraging.

Scouting Report:  At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Matias looks the part of a big leaguer.  He’s very athletic with great bat speed.  He shows his bat speed off in batting practice, driving balls effortlessly to all fields.  Common for young players, his primary over-the-fence power is to his pull-side.  Most evaluators believe that as his hit-tool improves, he’s strong enough to drive balls out to center and right.

His hit-tool is still very raw.  He’s currently a dead-red hitter and struggles with breaking pitches, particularly pitches away.  This again is very common for young players.  As his 16 walks shows, he’s also very aggressive at the plate.  As you might conclude, he has a lot of work ahead of him.  But remember, he’s very young and by all accounts, very coachable.

Fantasy Impact:  Matias upside is likely a power-hitting right fielder, capable of hitting 25 to 30 home runs annually.  It might come with a .240 batting average, which in today’s fantasy game is becoming more the norm than not.  He’s currently a very good runner but that has yet to show up in stolen bases.  It might not as he will likely put on weight as he matures and the speed could simply disappear.  For Dynasty League owners, he’s definitely an intriguing option.

Eric Skoglund (LHP)

Highest Level: Majors, ETA: 2017, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 75 SP

Eric Skoglund split his time between Triple-A and the Major Leagues last season.  He pitched well in Triple-A, posting a 4.11 ERA in 19 starts while striking out over a batter an inning and walking 2.5 batters per nine.  However, his XX starts in the major were inconsistent.

His debut was excellent, where he pitched 6.1 shutout innings against the Tigers for his first major league win.  In his next two starts, he gave up six earned runs over 3.1 innings and was demoted back to Triple-A.  In September he was recalled but once again, pitched poorly.

Scouting Report:  At 6-foot-7 and throwing from the left-side, Skoglund can be very intimidating.  While he only sits 90 to 92 MPH (91.3 in his starts in the majors), his extension when combined with the angle of his delivery is very difficult on left-handed batters.  To emphasize the point, lefties hit .221 against him, but in turn, right-handed batters hit 293.  The extension and angle work against him when facing righties as they get longer looks.  Could his ceiling then be a LOOGY?  Possibly, but I’m not sure the Royals are there yet.

Even with his long-levers, Skoglund can throw strikes as his lifetime 2.29 walk-per-nine demonstrates. However, his lower release point reduces his plane and he has been prone to giving up the goffer ball all too often.

Fantasy Impact:  Skoglund should get his chance next season as there will likely be a significant turnover in the Royals rotation.  Is he worth rostering?  At this juncture, it’s a pass.  That said, you can’t teach height and that funky delivery is tough against lefties.  So, if he goes up against a heavily left-handed dominated lineup, he might be worth a gamble.

Foster Griffin (LHP)

Highest Level: Double-A, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 50 SP

The Royals have taken it easy with their 2014 first round draft pick Foster Griffin hoping that as he developed physically, he stuff would tick-up a grade.  This year, he finally saw his fastball advance a mile or two and with that, his secondary pitches have greater separation.  The results were very positive.

Scouting Report:  He started the year in Wilmington and pitched extremely well.  In 10 starts he posted a 2.86 ERA striking out over a batter an inning while walking 3.2 per nine.  In June he was promoted to Double-A and continued to pitch well.  While the strike rate went down slightly, he also showed better control of his secondary pitches and started locating his fastball better.

He’ll never be a guy that sits in the mid-90’s but if he can sit 90 to 93 MPH, bumping 94, his stuff should make him a mid-rotation starter in the big leagues.  To accomplish, he needs one more step-up and I believe he has that in him.   It will likely take another year or two to accomplish and I have set his timetable accordingly.

Fantasy Impact:  Griffin is your typical back-of-the-rotation pitcher for your fantasy team.  His solid control should keep his ratios in check but his stuff doesn’t scream striking out a batter an inning, but more 7.5 per nine.

M.J. Melendez (C)

Highest Level: Rookie, ETA: 2022, Fantasy Ceiling: Second Catcher

The Royals went back-to-back with high schoolers in last year’s draft by first selecting Nick Pratto with pick 14 and then M.J Melendez with pick 52.  After signing, the Royals sent Melendez to their Rookie League facility in Surprise Arizona.  He played well, slashing .262/.374/.417 with four home runs.  He struck out way too much (28%) but also showed a surprisingly good understanding of the strike zone.

Despite having a solid introduction to professional baseball, I believe the Royals will start Melendez in the Appy League before sending him to their Low-A affiliate late next season or even to begin the 2019 season.

Scouting Report:  Melendez has been playing amateur ball at a high-level for years and has developed into quite a nice defensive catcher.  He has good catch and throw skills with a plus arm.  As with most young catchers, there is a ton to still learn about calling a game.

Offensively, he has good bat speed with good raw and a chance to hit for some power at the highest level.  As demonstrated this year, he has an understanding of the strike zone but can get wild at the plate and is therefore prone to strikeouts.  But he’s young and a lot can happen through the development process.

Fantasy Impact:  Melendez is four to five years away from the big leagues, so a lot can happen.  With his defensive chops, his floor is likely a second catcher in the big leagues and his ceiling will depend on how well he eventually hits. At this juncture, it’s just too early to try and predict that and therefore, he would only be a bet in the deepest of Dynasty Leagues.

Josh Staumont (RHP)

Highest Level: Triple-A, ETA: 2019, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 SP with extreme risk

The ERA said 3.04 in 11 starts in the Double-A in 2016 for John Stuamont, so the Royals decided to start their top pitching prospect in Triple-A to begin the 2017 season.  It went poorly.  After 16 games, 15 starts and a 6.28 ERA the Royals moved him back to Double-A.  Things didn’t get much better with the move as he put up nearly an identical stat line.

The problem, and it was a problem in 2016 is he can’t throw strikes.  In 2016, he was able to pitch out of trouble, statistically known as a high strand rate, but not so last season.  In 124.2 innings across Double and Triple-A, he walked 7.0 per nine.  An anomaly?  Nope…that’s his career walk rate.

Scouting Report:  Staumont has an electric arm that starts with an 80-grade fastball with the ability to hit triple-digits.  His primary out pitch is a curveball that sits 85 to 86 MPH with a nice tight break; almost slider like.  The problem, of course, is he has 30-grade control and 20-grade command.  In fact, with a walk rate of 7.5 per nine, that might, in fact, be 20-grade control.

The Royals continue to work with his mechanics but so far, the statistical results have not improved.  The book on a guy with the stuff Staumont has but with well below average control is to move him to the bullpen.  However, I’m not sure that will make a difference.  In fact, I’m not sure what you do.

Fantasy Impact:  Anybody who can throw 100 MPH should be on all Dynasty League owner’s radar.  If he can figure out his mechanics and throw strikes, at least some of the time, he could be an impact arm on a fantasy team.  However, he turns 24 this December so the words “late bloomer” are starting to be mentioned.  For Dynasty League owners, the real question is do you hold him or throw him back.  I honestly don’t know.  I can see it going either way.

2018 Emerging Prospect

Michael Gigliotti (OF)

Drafted in the fourth round of last June’s draft, Michael Gigliotti got off to a hot start to begin his professional career.  His carrying tool is double-plus speed that he showed off in spades by stealing 22 bases in 64 games.  He also has an understanding of the strike zone and could move quickly through the system.

 

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