|Original Published Date: November 2, 2018|
The Royals are in full rebuild mode but unlike a lot of teams who are rebuilding, they have a long way-to-go. Their system lacks impact players and just isn’t very deep. Losing 104 games will help (they will be picking second) and they need an excellent draft to start the process.
While they had a number of early round picks in 2018, they went with safe college pitchers and in my opinion, I don’t think it will work. While I know they are high on Brady Singer, I don’t like the delivery and believe he could be moved to the bullpen at some point. Of all the pitchers they selected, I like Jackson Kowar the best. He still has some physical projection remaining and a good base on which to work.
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1. Khalil Lee (OF)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF
While Khalil Lee did not repeat the 17 home runs he hit in Lexington in 2017, he did improve his contact rate significantly and that has moved him from a potential extra bat to a potential full-time regular. He accomplished this by shortening up his swing and just doing a better job at recognizing breaking pitches.
Not only did he improve his hit-tool, but he also improved his ability to steal a bag. In 2017, he was sitting at a 50% success rate, but in 2018, he was successful on 15 of 20 attempts.
If you add it all up, Lee has 20/20 upside with a .260/.320 average. Plus, he’s already in Double-A and likely will stay there for most of next season. Then again, the Royals have a history of pushing their players, sometimes to their detriment.
2. Nick Pratto (1B)
Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 1B
The Royals selected Nick Pratto with their first pick in the 2017 MLB Draft. Without a lot of fanfare, he had a very nice season in Low-A where he slashed .280/.343/.443 in 127 games. He also added 14 home runs and 22 stolen bases. I’m not sure where the 22 stolen bases came from as he’s an average runner at best.
He did strikeout out 28% of the time and while there is some concern there, the swing is solid and it probably comes from him adding more leverage to try and add more power. As he moves through the system, I would expect his strikeout rate to move to the lower 20% and his walk rate to rise above 10%. Assuming, the power is for real, he could be a 20 to 25 home run threat who bats .280/.360. That feels a little bit like Brandon Belt, who if he could only stay healthy, would be a solid contributor at first base for your fantasy team.
3. Jackson Kowar (RHP)
Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
The Royals went back-to-back with pitchers in last June’s draft. They drafted Brady Singer with the 18th overall pick and picked his teammate, Jackson Kowar with their 33rd pick. While most will likely rank Singer first, I’ve taken the bold move to rank Kowar ahead. Here’s why…
At 6-foot-5, he’s bigger than Singer and at a slim 185 pounds, there is some physical projection remaining. That means his already plus fastball could see a grade in improvement as he fills out. He also has a better delivery. What he lacks is the quality breaking pitch that Singer possesses. But, I’ve heard that his slider does show some promise, so with work…who knows, it could become an average offering.
If it all comes together, Kowar has a ceiling of a number three pitcher on your fantasy team. There is a risk given his lack of an above-average breaking pitch, but there are a lot of other building blocks in which to build.
4. Brady Singer (RHP)
Highest Level: DNP ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
The Royals spent $4.2 million dollars to sign their number one pick from Last June’s draft after an impressive career at The University of Florida. In his three years, he pitched to a 3.22 ERA striking out nearly a batter an inning while limiting his walks to 2.2 per nine. He has solid stuff but doesn’t have an overpowering fastball. He does have a slider that will miss bats.
The biggest concern in looking at publically available videos is Singer’s delivery. It’s far from smooth but more concerning, is he drops his arm down and doesn’t get great extension on his delivery. Translation…he short arms the ball from a lower delivery point. While that delivery will likely give right-handed batters fits, he’ll be more prone for injuries and you just don’t see a ton of starting pitchers with that delivery.
I think he has a ceiling of a number three starting pitcher, but a non-zero chance that he’ll move to the bullpen long-term. As a reliever, he would probably throw harder and his slider and delivery could be a real asset.
5. Seuly Matias (OF)
Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF
If you believe in Seuly Matias, you love the double-plus power and the 31 home runs he hit in the Sally League last year. You also love that he played the entire season as a 19-year-old, turning 20 shortly after the season ended. If you are not yet sold, you are worried about the 30-grade hit tool that saw him hit .231 with a 35% strikeout rate and a 6.4% walk rate. Sure, he was only 19, but rarely do players recover from that level of hitting futility to go on to be major contributors at the big league level. You can argue that Joey Gallo had a 37% strikeout rate in Low-A, but he also walked 11% of the time. Matias is a long way from that.
We see the profile a ton. Matias is a young Dominican player with a long swing who struggles to adjust to breaking pitches. But, he has 80-grade raw power that has already translated. Time will tell if he is able to make the necessary adjustment. Unfortunately, history says he could really struggle.
6. Kyle Isbel (OF)
Highest Level: Rookie ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 50 OF
Kyle Isbel is another 2018 draft pick, from yet another Division 1 College – UNLV. At least he’s a positional player and actually a very intriguing one at that. He has plus speed and nice bat speed to project at least average future power. In college, he was very aggressive at the plate, but in his senior year, he improved his strikeout rate to 13% and his walk rate to 12%.
In his first year in professional ball, he also played well. Across the Pioneer and Sally League, he hit .326/.389 with seven home runs and 24 stolen bases. He played well enough to earn a promotion to High-A to begin the 2019 season.
With his speed, the ceiling is a Top 50 fantasy outfielder. There is fourth outfielder risk if his power doesn’t develop, but I like his bat speed enough to believe he can sport at least a .400 SLG.
7. MJ Melendez (C)
Highest Level: Rookie ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 C
The Royals selected MJ Melendez in the second round of the 2017 MLB Draft in hopes that one day he would be the successor for Salvador Perez. As with Perez, he entered professional ball with the chops to be a very good defensive catcher. He’s athletic with a plus arm that he demonstrated by throwing out 42% of would-be base runners.
Offensively, he has plus raw power that started to show in-games where he slugged .492 while hitting 19 home runs. He also struck out 30% of the time but did walk 9% of the time. If he were an outfielder, that would be a problem, but as a catcher, it’s what is expected. If he can improve his strikeout rate, he has a chance to be an all-star. That’s a big ask, but the power and defensive chops give him a base on which to work.
8. Nicky Lopez (SS)
Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 SS
Nicky Lopez can hit. In three minor league seasons, he’s posted a .291/.371 average while walking more than he’s struck out. It’s an elite hit tool that he complements with a little bit of speed and power. The “little bit”, will define if he is starting shortstop for your fantasy team or a waiver wire pickup when injuries take over.
I think I would believe in the speed over the power at this point. He’s a plus runner with good instincts on the bases but his swing is more geared to contact and the seven home runs he hit in 57 games in Triple-A was unexpected. If you add it all up, I think you’re looking at a potential .300/.370 hitter who can steal 15 to 20 bases with a handful of home runs.
9. Daniel Lynch (LHP)
Highest Level: Rookie ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP
The Royals went four College pitchers in a row to begin the 2018 Draft – all from the first round or supplemental first round, and all from big Division 1 Schools. It’s an interesting strategy and one that usually is more about floor than upside. Usually, you draft high school kids or even Junior College kids who are still teenagers and let them develop under your tutelage. Plus, there is usually a lot of physical projection remaining. But a 21-year-old is usually fully physically developed and those from a big school have usually been taught “the system’s” method for hitting or pitching. Is that bad? For a high-end talented player, I think it is, but for perhaps those who don’t have that natural elite talent, learning a system can make them better.
With that as a backdrop, let’s look at Daniel Lynch, the Royals third of fourth College player taken last June. He’s a 6-foot-6 lefty with average stuff. But, he has some physical projection remaining as he doesn’t yet tip the scale at 200 pounds. The Royals are hoping this extra projection can give him the juice to give him an above-average fastball. His secondary pitches are ok and he doesn’t always throw strikes. But, the Royals like his athleticism and believe that his control will improve. So, Lynch is an amalgamation of the scouting theory. While he turns 22 in December, he still might have some physical projection remaining. Otherwise, he is a product of the University of Virginia. Add it all up, and he has number four ceiling
10. Kris Bubic (LHP)
Highest Level: Rookie ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP
Drafted in the supplemental first round last June, Kris Bubic has had an inconsistent start to his professional career. Pitching in the Pioneer League, he got off to a difficult start pitching to a 5.73 ERA in 11 innings in July. However, as he got more comfortable, the stuff got sharper and August was much better. In 19 innings, he’s pitched to a 1.89 ERA with 32 strikeouts and only five walks.
He’s currently a fastball/change-up pitcher with his fastball sitting in the low-90s. With his change-up ahead of his curveball, he’ll likely have early success as batters in the lower minor leagues will be fooled. However, as he moves through the system, the curveball will have to improve in order for him to his hit ceiling of a number four pitcher.
11. Brewer Hicklen (OF)
Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 75 OF
Brewer Hicklen was having a breakout season in Low-A through mid-July. He was getting on base at nearly a .400 clip, showing an ability to steal bases in bunches and even surprising power. So, on July 18th, the Royals promoted him to Wilmington and it didn’t go well. In 22 games, he hit .211 with a .263 OBP. So, what happened?
Well, the magic of BABIP is at the center of the issue. In Low-A, a .395 BABIP masked his 28% strikeout rate and the 6% walk rate. Once he was promoted, a normal BABIP of .318 allowed his even worse 33% strikeout rate to drive his batting average. While he has plus speed and solid power, unless he can shorten his swing, he’s likely a fourth, maybe even a fifth outfielder in the big leagues. All said, his performance in Low-A should have put him on the prospect radar as the secondary skills (power and skills) are very exciting.
12. Travis Jones (OF)
Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 OF
Travis Jones was the 870th overall pick in the 2017 draft and given he made our Top 15 prospect list, he clearly must have had a great season. He started the year in Low-A where he slashed .285/.368/.417 in 62 games. The Royals promoted him to High-A and he arguably performed better.
He’s a plus runner who has shown a solid ability to get on base. His swing is more geared to contact so power will not be part of the equation. He’s an interesting name for now in fantasy circles given his plus speed, but his lack of power might make him a fourth outfielder in the big leagues. But, if he makes to the Majors, which is seemingly likely, this is a big win for the Royals as you just don’t expect much from a 29th round draft pick.
13. Michael Gigliotti (OF)
Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 75 OF
It was a lost season for Michael Gigliotti. Shortly after the season began, he blew out his knee and didn’t play for the rest of the year. Since his game is based on his speed, I have the concern whether this will affect his ceiling long-term. For now, I still have him ranked in the Top 15.
When healthy, Gigliotti controls the strike zone well and can be a disruptive force with his speed on the bases. He has below-average power and his swing is geared more for contact. He does have good bat speed, so I would anticipate a high single-digit annual home run total as a reasonable baseline.
14. Omar Florentino (SS)
Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2023-25 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 SS
The Royals big Latin signing in 2018 was Dominican shortstop Omar Florentino. He’s only listed a 5-foot-9 and 145 pounds but with people I spoke with, they loved his athleticism and bat-to-ball skills. He’s only 16 and will likely play in the DSL in 2019 and Rookie Ball in 2020. In other words, he won’t appear on prospect lists for a while. But for you lucky ones who are reading our site, you now know.
15. Josh Staumont (RHP)
Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Middle Reliever
At 25-years-old (turns 25 in December), it’s becoming hard to consider Josh Staumont a prospect. With a 7.0 BB/9 rate, it’s even harder to view him as a prospect. But, he has good stuff, strikes out a ton of guys (lifetime 11.6 K/9) and has the size you want to see in a pitcher.
The problem is he can’t repeat his delivery and at this point, I’m not sure he ever will. The Royals have always used him as a starter, but in 2018, they moved him to the bullpen. This is the right move, but he still gave up over six walks per nine. He should not be rostered on a fantasy team but is a good name to know if he ever learns to find the plate on a consistent basis.