I love what I do for a living. Watching and writing about young baseball players is awesome.
But I must tell you – writing about the Royals this season was a slog. Gavin Cross is still a Top 100 player, but my comment about him being a 20-20 player might be over-zealous. I like Cayden Wallace as a nice complementary player, and maybe in five years, Blake Mitchell provides some fantasy value, but it’s just not a very good system.
It’s been lousy drafting, poor development, and a lack of finding impact players in the international market. I think the Royals need to do some soul-searching, or Witt Jr. might become the Royals’ version of Mike Trout – a great player who will rarely, if ever, play in a playoff game.
- Top Prospect: Gavin Cross
- Biggest Mover: Cayden Wallace
- Biggest Disappointment: Frank Mozzicato
- Emerging Prospect: Ramon Ramirez
1. Gavin Cross (OF)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2025 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF
- Tools Summary: He has the talent to be a 20-20 player with enough contact to post a .260+ batting average. There is more chase in his swing than was anticipated.
He was one of the better college hitters entering the 2022 draft, so his 28% strikeout rate in 2023 was disappointing. Historically, hitters struggle in Quad Cities and the entire Midwest League in April, but even after the weather warmed up, the strikeout rate only marginally improved.
I still like the swing as it’s short to the ball with excellent bat speed that should translate into 20+ home run future power. He’s currently a well above-average runner, but the speed will likely fade as he fills out. It’s hard to believe, but there is still a possible 20-20 player lurking. However, it might come with pressure on the batting average – something I did not anticipate when he was drafted.
2. Cayden Wallace (3B)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2025 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 3B
- Tools Summary: Solid all-around skills with enough on-base skills to be a full-time regular.
Cayden Wallace was the Royals second-round in 2022 after an impressive season where he hit 16 home runs and stole 12 bases in 67 games at the University of Arkansas. He’s continued to play well in his first full season of professional ball, showing power, speed, and solid on-base skills. He will chase too much, which he’ll need to work on as he progresses through the system. However, he has the building blocks to be a full-time regular with 20 home run pop and 8 to 10 stolen bases.
3. Blake Mitchell (C, #8)
- Highest Level: Complex ETA: 2027+ Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 Catcher
- Tools Summary: Plus defender with power and a feel to hit.
The Royals popped prep catcher Blake Mitchell with the eighth pick last July. There’s a ton to get excited about, as scouts love his footwork behind the plate and his hose for an arm. The swing also works with a chance for plus future power. Despite being a Top 10 pick, there is significant risk here as high school catchers historically take a long time to develop. While it was a small sample size, he hit .147 in 13 games in the Complex League to begin his professional career.
If you decide to invest, you’ll need to have great patience, as it could take five years before he’s ready for the Majors.
4. Nick Loftin (2B)
- Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: Middle Infielder with upside
- Tools Summary: He could not build on the 24 stolen bases he posted in 2022, giving me pause on his ceiling.
I’m a little stumped with Nick Loftin’s season. Last year in Double-A, he showed speed and power (12 home runs and 24 SB) and the ability to hit (walking nearly as much as he struck out). It appeared he could profile as a Top 15 2B, maybe even more.
In 2023, he continued to post great strikeout rates, even with average power at 14 home runs, but the speed disappeared. He’s far from a burner anyway, but if you can’t get double-digit stolen bases from him, his ceiling drops to a middle infielder.
I believe he’s a high-floor player whose hit tool should keep him in the lineup with a 12-12 type of production. His ability to get on base should push him to the top of the lineup, and with that, many runs scored.
5. Ben Kudrna (RHP)
- Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2025-26 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 50 SP
- Tools Summary: Solid stuff highlighted by a plus slider.
Ben Kudrna was the Royals’ second-round pick in 2021 and split his time between Low and High-A in 2023. The results were solid but far from spectacular, striking out a batter an inning and walking four per pine. He has a three-pitch mix with a fastball that will touch 96 MPH, with his slider being his best out pitch. He has the size you want to pitch at the top of the rotation and still has room to fill out to add more velo. If you squint, you can see a mid-rotation starter, but it’s far from guaranteed.
6. David Sandlin (RHP)
- Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2025 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP or Reliever
- Tools Summary: He has increased his velocity since turning pro with a plus slider. He also developed a splitter that Low-A couldn’t hit.
David Sandlin was drafted in the 11th round in 2022 after an excellent career at Oklahoma, including pitching in the College World Series. He’s increased his velocity since being drafted and is now scraping 97 MPH with an above-average slider and a new splitter that might turn out to be his best pitch. There is effort in his delivery, with a nasty leg kick after landing. The Royals did start him in Low-A, and as a Division One starter, he should have dominated and did. He only got two starts in High-A before hitting the IL in July and did not return.
Assuming health, he’ll likely start the 2024 season back in High-A.
7. Trevor Werner (3B)
- Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2026-27 Fantasy Ceiling: Corner Infielder
- Tools Summary: There is a bit of power and speed, but there are concerns about how much contact he’ll make.
Trevor Werner was drafted in the third round in July out of Texas A&M. There is power and speed, but he’ll expand the strike zone, leading to a high strike-out rate. However, he’s athletic and played well in his first kick at the can in professional ball, slashing .354/.459/.699 in 31 games in Low-A.
8. Frank Mozzicato (LHP)
- Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2026-27 Fantasy Ceiling: Wide range from a mid-rotation starter or a kid who never makes it.
- Tools Summary: He’s been slow to develop, with poor control and a below-average fastball. He still has the beautiful curveball that will miss bats, but there is not much else there.
Frank Mozzicato was the seventh overall pick in the 2021 Draft and is really struggling to justify that pick by the Royals. On the positive, he has a plus curveball from the left side, but his fastball sits 91 to 92 MPH, his change-up needs a lot of work, and he can’t throw strikes. The Royals had him repeat Low-A, and while the ERA stood at 3.04, he was walking 5.4 per nine. The walks increased once he was promoted to High-A, and so did the ERA, and he wound up with an ugly 7.12 ERA with an 8.1 BB/9.
I don’t know about this one. He’s still very young, but there is a long way to go.
9. Austin Charles (SS/3B)
- Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2026-27 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 SS/3B with extreme risk
- Tools Summary: Toolsy player who needs time to learn how to hit.
Austin Charles was signed in the 20th round in 2022 for $429,000. It’s unusual to see a player paid that much in the last round, but Charles is a unique prospect. He’s highly athletic and was a legitimate two-player in high school. However, he’s played exclusively in the field (SS and 3B) since turning pro. The stat line doesn’t look great, but the scouting report does. He’s a plus runner with excellent bat speed that, if he can hit enough, could be an impact player at the highest level.
10. Carson Roccaforte (OF)
- Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2025-26 Fantasy Ceiling: Wide Range – concerns about how much power he will develop.
- Tools Summary: He hit in college with speed, but showed very little power.
The Royals went outside the box when selecting Carson Roccaforte in the second round last July. Scouts did not like much about him and questioned how much power he would eventually develop. However, he hit in college with speed, and he’s repeating that so far in professional ball. I’m unsure about his ceiling, so I have left it vague.