|Original Published Date: Oct. 25, 2013|
The first step on the road to success is having a winning record. The Kansas City Royals can add a big check next to that as they finished 10 games over .500 and were in the playoff hunt until the final weeks of the season. The next step is to make the playoffs and become World Series contenders. That will prove to be more difficult as the Royals will need to add more depth to the Major League team.
One of the obvious places to look for that depth is in their minor league system. Their 2012 first round pick, Kyle Zimmer pitched very well in 2013 and could be a target for the big leagues by mid-season. He’s a polished power pitcher that will not take much more time to develop. Yordano Ventura, who made a couple of spot starts in Kansas City should also help the big league club in 2014. He has a huge ceiling but his physicality could eventually move him to the bullpen.
A little further away is Raul Mondesi Jr., a true shortstop that should be able to provide above average offensive contribution and 2011 first round pick, Bubba Starling, who after a tough introduction to professional baseball is starting to figures things out. The Royals also added two elite prospects in Hunter Dozier and Sean Manaea in the 2013 draft. Both are college products and should move quickly through the system.
It takes time and patience to build a winning team and the Royals are nearing the end of their first development wave. While there is still a lot of work to do, they are in an excellent position to become consistent winners at the highest level.
|2014 Age: 22||Ceiling: #2 starter|
|Ht: 6-3 Weight: 215||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2014-15|
When we published our 2013 Top 50 mid-season prospect list in late June, I ranked Kyle Zimmer at number 35 despite an ERA of 5.98. After a scouting trip to Wilmington Delaware in late April to see him pitch, I was convinced that this was a case of the performance not matching the scouting profile. Despite feedback from a source who told me that the “Royals are turning him into somebody he’s not”, I stuck with my evaluation and Zimmer’s results caught up and even surpassed what I saw that chilly April evening.
Zimmer has a top-of-the-rotation arsenal with a plus fastball that sits 92-95 MPH and tops out at 97 MPH. He also throws a two-seamer and is able to keep both fastballs down in the zone. He throws both a curve and a slider but it’s the curve that is his money pitch. It’s a plus-plus current pitch today and could easily get swing and misses at the highest level. He has good command of the pitch but as with most young pitchers, it’s not consistent. I’d grade the change-up as an average pitch. If you’re keeping score, that’s two plus pitches with a third pitch having above-average potential, if not more.
What gets me the most excited about Zimmer is his athleticism and ability to repeat his delivery. His mechanics are very natural and easy. His posture is excellent and this is leading to very good balance on his follow-through. He has good momentum to the plate, not excellent, but with his size and velocity, the fastball in particularly really jumps up on batters. There is still room for improvement as sometimes Zimmer’s timing gets off and that can lead to bouts of wildness, although his 3.30 BB/9 ratio was excellent.
With his arsenal, ability to miss bats, and pitching mechanics, Kyle Zimmer has the ceiling of a number two starter. He should start the year back in Double-A and if he continues to perform as he did in the second half of 2013, he could see Kansas City sometime later in the season.
Fantasy Impact: Kyle Zimmer is the perfect candidate to acquire via trade in a Dynasty League. His stat line is inflated with a 4.39 ERA and 1.29 WHIP and most owners will strictly look at the performance and ignore the underlying scouting report. But you’ll know better. Invest!
|2014 Age: 22||Ceiling: #2 starter|
|Ht: 5-11 Weight: 180||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2014-15|
Life accelerated for 22-year-old Yordano Ventura as he started 2013 playing in Northwest Arkansas and finished the year pitching in meaningful games in the Royals playoff chase. Twitter went crazy during his first start in Kansas City as the 5-foot-11 Dominican hit triple digit in the first inning and looked like he belonged.
Ventura has a plus-plus fastball and while the Kansas City radar gun notoriously runs hot, it did average 98.78 MPH in his first two starts. The fastball is also not a straight pitch but definitely has movement and is able by itself to miss bats. He also throws a cutter that is not very refined but does have some nice cutting action. In addition to his fastball, he throws an 82 MPH power curve that has nice shape but he struggles to command it at times. The final pitch in his arsenal is an 86 MPH change-up that has the same motion and release point as his fastball, except at a 10-12 MPH delta with nice fade. With some more work, it could also be a plus-plus pitch.
You’re thinking Ace right? Well, not so fast. The big elephant in the room is the physicality of Ventura. At 5-foot-11 and a listed 180 pounds (up from 145 pounds in 2012), he’s clearly undersized and there will always be whispers that he will be better served as a bullpen arm than a starter. The supporters of Ventura will point to another smallish Dominican with a plus fastball and a plus-plus change-up in Pedro Martinez. It’s hard to ignore the physical comps of a 22-year-old Martinez to Ventura but then again, Martinez had plus-plus command and an extra “pitching gene” that we will not know about for a while with Ventura.
For now, Ventura is an intriguing prospect. Given his success in his September call-up, he could very well start the year in Kansas City. Of course, they could play the “Super Two arbitration game” and keep him down in Triple-A until mid-season, but given how close KC got to the playoffs, that would seem like a bad idea, right???
Fantasy Impact: Ventura could be a monster fantasy contributor as a starter with the ability for high strikeout totals, good ratios, playing for a very good Kansas City team. The upside is a number two starter with a floor of a ninth inning shutdown closer.
|2014 Age: 18||Ceiling: Role 6
|Ht:6-1 Weight: 165||Bats: Both Throws: Right||ETA: 2015-16|
Son of former major league all-star Raul Mondesi Sr., Raul Mondesi Jr. was one of the breakout prospects of 2013. With a slash line of .261/.311/.361, you might be scratching your head and saying…why? For starters, Mondesi was the youngest player in the Midwest League at 17-years-old and he more than held his own.
The swing is short and compact and even though he is still a teenager, he shows an understanding of the strike zone and has an approach that projects him to have a plus hit tool. He has plus bat-speed and should develop double-digit home run power as he matures. He’s also a plus runner and the 24 stolen bases out of 34 attempts should improve as he learns the finer points of base stealing. It’s a plus offensive projection with top-of-the-lineup potential.
Defensively, Mondesi has excellent hands and lateral movements. While he doesn’t have a cannon for an arm, it’s more than adequate for him to stay at shortstop for the long haul.
Mondesi is on the fast track and provided he stays healthy, could see Kansas City in late 2015 or 2016. I expect him to split time between High-A and Double-A in 2014.
Fantasy Impact: The common comp for shortstops that can hit, play an excellent shortstop, steal bases with limited power is Elvis Andrus. I think the offensive ceiling for Mondesi is higher given the power potential. He hit seven home runs as a teenager in the pitcher-friendly Midwest League. I would be investing in Mondesi in all Dynasty League formats.
|2014 Age: 21||Ceiling: #2 starter|
|Ht: 6-2 Weight: 180||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2015-16|
I’ve stuffed Miguel Almonte for sure, but with a 9.09 K/9 and a 2.48 BB/9 in 130.2 innings as a 20-year-old in Low-A, he deserves it.
When Almonte signed with the Royals out of the Dominican Republic in 2010 for $25,000, I doubt the Royals projected him to be one of their top prospects three years later. At 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, Almonte is not your prototypical physical pitcher but has an arsenal that features a 92-94 MPH fastball that can touch the mid-90’s, two breaking pitches (with the curve ball starting to flash well above average), and his money pitch – a plus change-up that he commands with ease.
Almonte was rewarded with an appearance in the Futures Game, a rare treat for a player in Low-A and pitched well. He looked like he belonged, throwing a clean inning and even striking out uber-prospect Byron Buxton. Since he was only pitching one inning, he amped it up and was sitting 93-95 MPH and his change-up was flat-out nasty.
His arm action is very clean as he throws with ease. He has very good momentum to the plate which gives his fastball that much more life. The balance and posture could be improved but overall the mechanics are matching the performance numbers he is posting.
Miguel Almonte is a borderline Top 50 prospect for me but will likely just fall short. He has a ceiling of a number two starter but a pretty high floor as well. Before this year, I did consider him as a potential bullpen arm, but 2013 has made me a believer and I think he stays a starter long-term.
Fantasy Impact: Almonte could move through two levels in 2014 and could be looking at a major league role in 2015. He’s not a household name yet, but will be by mid-season. It’s time to invest!
|2014 Age: 21||Ceiling: Role 6
|Ht:6-4 Weight: 180||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2016-17|
It was a disappointing year in 2012 for Kansas native Bubba Starling. However, 2013 was not only a new year, but a chance to prove to the Royals that he was worth the fifth overall pick in the 2011 draft. The surface stats weren’t eye-popping for the 20-year-old as he only managed a .241/.329/.398 slash line, but he improved his contact and managed to steal 22 of 25 bases while playing a very good defensive center field.
Bubba Starling is a premium athlete with most of the tools under the rainbow. He has great bat speed, plus raw power, plus speed, a plus arm, and can cover a lot of territory in the outfield. What’s missing? Well it’s the most important tool – the ability to make contact and therefore ultimately allow his other tools to play. However, there might be an answer to the contact riddle…
Despite posting a 71% contact rate for the year, Starling’s contact did improve as the season progressed. Why? One possible explanation was having LASIK eye surgery in May. Statistically, there is a strong data correlation to the date of his surgery and his improved contact.
Starling should start the year in High-A and at 21-years-old, he will be age appropriate for the league. He needs repetition and therefore the Royal faithful need to have tremendous patience. I think there is a payoff but that payoff is still likely three years away.
Fantasy Impact: Starling still has a ceiling of an all-star but the floor could be an extra bat. It’s clearly the profile of a high risk and high reward player. He’s a buy-low candidate in a Dynasty League but if you choose to make the move, you’ve got to have the patience to wait, otherwise, stay away. He’s not a buy and hold stock and therefore not a player for a day-trader type fantasy owner.
|2014 Age: 20||Ceiling: Role 5
|Ht:6-1 Weight: 190||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2015|
20-year-old Jorge Bonifacio had another progressive year that was temporarily interrupted with a hand injury in May. He continues to make hard contact (79%) and show a nice approach at the plate. The power has yet to develop as he only hit four home runs in 329 at-bats but the bat speed and body type point to future plus power.
Unlike his brother Emilio, Jorge is not a speedster and in fact, he grades out as a below average runner. However, the hit tool should play better and enable him to tap into his eventual power. While the swing can get long, his ability to adjust his swing plane is impressive. Scouting him during several AFL games, he was really able to barrel the ball, including showing impressive oppo-power. Again, it’s not over-the-fence power yet, but the potential is there.
Fantasy Impact: Bonifacio’s stats are not impressive and that makes him a target for acquisition in a Dynasty League. The power will come as he just turns 21 in June. The ceiling is a first division starter, hitting in the middle of the lineup with 20+ home run power.
|2014 Age: 22||Ceiling: #2 starter|
|Ht: 6-5 Weight: 235||Bats: Right Throws:Left||ETA: 2015-16|
The Kansas City Royals decided to play a clever game of chicken in the 2013 draft and wound up grabbing Sean Manaea in the supplemental first round. They were able to pay him a well over-slot $3.55 million dollar signing bonus by playing it safe with Hunter Dozier, their first round pick, and paying him under slot money at $2.2 million. While Manaea had first round talent, a hip injury that led to him needing surgery caused him to fall in the draft. It was not trivial surgery as it involved a Labrum tear, but Kansas City thought it was worth the risk. The big question…was it worth all of this maneuvering?
Manaea showed a plus arsenal in the summer of 2012 in the Cape Cod League, but it was the first time that he had showed that electric stuff. The fastball was hitting in the mid 90’s with a tight slider. However, the arsenal played down once he started back at Indiana State before getting hurt. It begs the question, who is the real Sean Manaea? Candidly, I’m not sure anybody knows.
His pitching mechanics are just ok for me. His arm angle is a little low and he has some cross-fire in his delivery. This should cause some deception in his delivery but could also put him in a higher risk for arm injury down the road. I know…more concern.
Fantasy Impact: I’m not going to be running out to draft Sean Manaea in a Dynasty League. He’s a lefty and even if his velocity never hits what he did in the summer of 2012, it should be enough for him to make it the Major Leagues. The upside is a number two starter but that comes with a great deal of risk and uncertainty.
|2014 Age: 22||Ceiling: Role 5
|Ht:6-4 Weight: 220||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2016|
While the Royals did gamble and drafted Hunter Dozier a round too early, he still would have likely been a top 50 pick in the 2013 draft. He’s a good player and has a chance to be a solid regular at the highest level.
At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Dozier is a big guy and while he’s currently playing shortstop, it’s not likely he will stick at the position long-term. However, he is athletic and could eventually move to third base or a corner outfield position. While he doesn’t have elite bat speed, it’s good enough and when combined with his size and hitting ability, he projects to have plus future power. In fact his .509 slugging percentage in the Pioneer League could be an interesting baseline for him.
Playing in the college dominated Pioneer League, Dozier showed the mature approach and contact rate that made him a high draft selection. In 218 at-bats, he had a 32K/35BB, strikeout to walk ratio. That similar pattern continued when he was promoted to Low-A in August.
Dozier should move quickly through the minor leagues and could even start the 2014 season in Wilmington.
Fantasy Impact: Dozier could be real fantasy asset as he has 20-25 home run power and with his plus hit tool, should profile as a middle of the order hitter. This should allow him to add value in both RUNS and RBI’s. While not a burner, he could also contribute high single-digit stolen bases.
9. Cheslor Cuthbert (3B)
Cheslor Cuthbert is yet another significant talent in the deep Kansas City farm system. After posting a decent slash line of .280/.354/.418 in High-A, Cuthbert was promoted in June to Double-A where he struggled against superior pitching. He made good contact but was not able to barrel up pitches like he did in the lower-levels. However, as the third youngest player in the league, it was understandable. The future is still very bright for the third baseman and if you are in a Dynasty League and somebody has decided to give up on him, it’s time to invest.
10. Cody Reed (LHP)
Selected in the second round of the 2013 draft, Cody Reed showed both the promise and work that is ahead of him. He flashed an impressive arsenal that consists of a four-seamer that he can run up to the mid 90’s and an above-average curve. While he has a nice clean arm action, he is unable to repeat his delivery and that resulted in an ugly 25K/23BB strikeout-to-walk ratio in 29.2 innings in the Pioneer League. However, he’s athletic and with some instruction, Reed could improve and improve quickly. He’s somebody that could be rising very quickly in the Royals system.
2014 Emerging Prospect:
Elier Hernandez (OF)
I almost pushed Cody Reed to my 2014 emerging prospect, but decided that a second round draft pick in which you pay over a $1 million dollar signing bonus, doesn’t really qualify. One could argue that the $3 million dollar signing bonus that Elier Hernandez signed as a J2 draftee in 2011 shouldn’t count either. Ignoring my inconsistencies, Hernandez is a big-time talent with elite bat speed that could develop into plus future power. While he has a long way to go, he did post a respectable .301/.350/.439 slash line as a teenager in the Pioneer League. Expect Hernandez to start 2014 in the Midwest League for his first taste of full-season ball.