Kansas City Royals Top 30 Prospects

1. MJ Melendez, C

Age: 20 (11/29/98)

Highest Level: A-

.251/.322/.492, 19 HR, .241 ISO, 128 wRC+, 9.1% BB, 30.3% K, 4 SB

Melendez is a lock to stay behind the plate, and he projects out to be a plus defender that blocks well and controls the running game with his laser arm. There’s some work to do offensively, but his plus raw power and plus defensive skills give him the tools to be a MLB backup if the hit tool doesn’t come around. When you watch Melendez you notice it right away. He completely sells out for power. Take it away JP!

“Exudes leader vibe in interactions with teammates. Frame is starting to fill out. Looks significantly stronger than 2017 Instructs MJ Melendez. Still adroit and flexible behind home. Does not get cheated on his swings, appears to be deliberate choice to exchange strikeouts for hard contact. Utilizes leg kick early in counts and shortens stride with two strikes. Still swings hard in two-strike counts, though.”

Melendez will always be fantasy relevant as a backstop with 20-plus homer pop. ETA: 2021

2. Brady Singer, RHP

Age: 22 (8/4/96)

Highest Level: DNP

DNP - Workload Concerns

The Royals selected Singer with the 18th pick out of the University of Florida and signed him to an above-slot deal for just over $4.2 million. He was held from pitching in games due to his heavy workload for the Gators and a hamstring issue. He comes at you with a unconventional arm slot, which I think helps him get as much run on the fastball as he does. Our resident scout Jason Pennini was able to get some eyes on Singer this fall. This is what he had to say:

“From the windup, most athletic delivery I have seen since Hunter Greene. Excellent light feet. Special blend of momentum and balance. Fastball sits 90-93 and danced to both sides with sink…Slider sat 80-82 and flashed plus with inconsistent shape. Sporadic feel for a changeup around 85-87 with moderate depth and run…the ingredients are here for a mid-rotation starter with number-two upside if all goes right.”

Singer has a fiery personality on the mound, often yelling and screaming into his glove, but he’s absolutely the guy you want on the mound in big games. He’s advanced enough to push himself to the bigs at the end of next year, but that’s unlikely given the Royals competitive window. ETA: 2020

3. Khalil Lee, OF

Age: 20 (6/26/98)

Highest Level: AA

.262/.382/.390, 6 HR, .127 ISO, 124 wRC+, 14.1% BB, 24.6% K, 16 SB

Lee was an over-slot 3rd-rounder in 2016 as a two-way prep prospect that was good enough to pitch in pro ball. Obviously the Royals took Lee off the mound and he’s working on polishing a skill set that could make him a multi-faceted contributor for them. Lee has dramatically improved his defense over time, and despite playing primarily on the outfield corners early on, he now spends a majority of his time in centerfield where he projects as an above-average defender with a plus arm. Overall I think the hit tool is slightly below average, but the improvement in his strikeout rate and the elite walk percentage makes it play above average. The power output is all projection right now, but I can’t project him for more than 10-12 homers annually because of the ground ball rate and his frame. Lee should be the leadoff hitter of the future for Kansas City, and could be a left-handed version of Lorenzo Cain down the line. ETA: 2020

4. Jackson Kowar, RHP

Age: 22 (10/4/96)

Highest Level: A

26.1 IP, 3.42 ERA, 4.15 FIP, 7.52 K/9, 4.10 BB/9, .200 AVG

The Royals took Brady Singer’s roommate Jackson Kowar with the 33rd pick in this past June’s draft. Singer has the higher floor but I’d argue that Kowar is the righty with the higher upside. His 6-foot-6, 185-pound frame oozes projection. He sits 93-95 and can bump it up to 97 when he needs it. The pitch has some run to it. His changeup is a plus secondary with good fade and he maintains his arm speed. Kowar’s breaking ball is behind his other pitches and is below average currently. His command issues stood out in his brief 26-inning sample, but he had a long college season so I’m anxious to see him after he gets a winter of rest. Kowar has the most upside of any Royals arm since Yordano Ventura. ETA: 2021

5. Nick Pratto, 1B

Age: 20 (10/6/98)

Highest Level: A-

.280/.343/.443, 14 HR, .163 ISO, 124 wRC+, 8.4% BB, 27.9% K, 22 SB

Pratto spent all of 2018 playing for a stacked Lexington club, and it was very much a tale of two halves. A disappointing first half saw Pratto with a .238/.288/.367 line, but a strong second half (.322/.394/.518) saved his season and gave him some momentum entering 2019. You very much need to look beyond the baseline numbers here. Pratto uses all fields and actually hit lefties better than righties. The power is coming (33 doubles), but he will always be a hit over power prospect.

He’s one of the most athletic and defensively gifted first baseman in the minors. The foundational skills here make for a very exciting prospect, and I compare him to Anthony Davis or Kevin Durant from the basketball world. Those guys were guards while growing up so they have the handles and athleticism associated with much smaller players, but then had a massive growth spurt. I see that with the power for Pratto. He will be a well-rounded hitter that grows into his power. I’m bullish on his future. ETA: 2021

6. Nicky Lopez, SS

Age: 24 (3/13/95)

Highest Level: AAA

.308/.382/.417, 9 HR, .109 ISO, 119 wRC+, 10.3% BB, 9% K, 15 SB

The left-handed hitting Lopez has some of the best hands of any prospect we’ve discussed thus far. Lopez has elite bat-to-ball skills with an advanced knowledge of the strike zone and the makeup skills to be a manager someday. He had a strong year at the plate with more walks (60) than strikeouts (52). The hit tool is above average as a stand alone tool, and a plus one when you factor in the approach. He needs to be more efficient, but he has the speed to steal 20 bases in the big leagues. There’s minimal power projection here due to the size and a swing that’s built more for contact. So much so that with two strikes he hits from more of a crouch and chokes up on the bat. The lack of power limits the upside, but Lopez is a sure thing to be at minimum, an up-the-middle utility player. He profiles better at second base, especially with Mondesi in the organization. Lopez is a safe investment. ETA: Late 2019

7. Daniel Lynch, LHP

Age: 22 (11/17/96)

Highest Level: A

51.1 IP, 1.58 ERA, 1.99 FIP, 10.69 K/9, 1.40 BB/9, .230 AVG

After a successful collegiate career at Virginia that saw heavy breaking ball usage, The Royals focused more on the 4-seam after Lynch entered the system. The early results were strong. Lynch’s fastball sits 94-96 and he can bump it up to 97. His slider is the best secondary pitch but his curveball and changeup aren’t far behind. The breaking balls do blend together at times, but it gives hitters a different look. Lynch lacks athleticism in his delivery, but he repeats it well. The heavy ground-ball tilt adds a level of safety here, and Lynch should fit solidly in the middle of the Royals rotation. Of the top three college arms listed, Lynch could move the quickest. ETA: 2020

8. Kyle Isbel, OF

Age: 22 (3/3/97)

Highest Level: A

.326/.389/.504, 7 HR, .178 ISO, 142 wRC+, 8.9% BB, 20.5% K, 24 SB

Isbel was the Royals third-round pick after a big season at UNLV. Our very own @prospectjesus has already done the heavy lifting on Isbel when he broke him down here.

He is a 50-hit, 50 potential power and 55-speed outfielder that could move relatively quick through the system if the Royals need him to. ETA: 2021

9. Seuly Matias, OF

Age: 22 (9/4/98)

Highest Level: A

.231/.303/.550, 31 HR, .320 ISO, 138 wRC+, 6.4% BB, 34.8% K, 6 SB

I don’t know what to do with Matias on a list like this. He was on pace to set the all-time homer mark in the South Atlantic League (SAL) when he hit number 31 at the end of July. Unfortunately a freak injury when he sliced his thumb moving luggage would ultimately end his season. Matias has a tough time getting to that 70 raw power because he struggles with making contact and pitch recognition. Because of the approach and contact issues, his hit tool is an easy 20 for me. He plays a passable right field but has a cannon that makes it impossible to take the extra base on him. Matias’ profile is such a high-risk investment, especially in fantasy formats that punish you for strikeouts. ETA: 2022

10. Carlos Hernandez, RHP

Age: 22 (3/11/97)

Highest Level: A

79.1 IP, 3.29 ERA, 3.57 FIP, 9.30 K/9, 2.61 BB/9, .234 AVG

Hernandez was an older international addition when he signed with the Royals out of Venezuela at the age of 19 for only $15,000. The 6-foot-4 righty throws in the mid-to-high 90s with a plus changeup and a breaking ball that flashes but needs work. Hernandez had a difficult 2018 that saw him head home with some family issues and then shut down with some bicep soreness in August that ended his season. Hernandez is an underrated arm. He gets over a strikeout per inning and he cut his walks down significantly from 2017. He was the best arm on that loaded Lexington staff until the trove of college arms arrived. ETA: 2022

11. Brewer Hicklen, OF

Age: 23 (2/9/96)

Highest Level: A+

.289/.357/.507, 18 HR, .218 ISO, 144 wRC+, 6.6% BB, 29.2% K, 35 SB

Hicklen is a fantastic athlete that was also recruited to play football at UAB until the football program went on its hiatus. The right-handed hitter has some swing and miss issues, but is raw since he is finally just focusing on baseball. There are some concerns that he will struggle against quality pitching (doesn’t everyone?) but the only way that will improve is with more reps. Hicklen has plus speed and above-average power that make him a mouth-watering asset in the fantasy game. The Royals should also be in position to have a bit of a longer leash with athletes like this. I’m a fan. The Royals may have found something in the seventh round of the 2017 draft. ETA: 2021

12. Michael Gigliotti, OF

Age: 23 (2/14/96)

Highest Level: A

.235/.435/.471, 1 HR, .235 ISO, 165 wRC+, 25.0% BB, 20.8% K, 1 SB

Gigliotti was only able to play in six games in 2018 due to a severe knee injury that ended his season. He stood out to me as having one of the prettiest left-handed swings in all of the minor leagues. There isn’t much power here, but Gigliotti can hit and take a walk. He’s a plus runner and will utilize that speed on the bases and in the outfield as his defense grades out as plus. The 2017 4th-rounder had a fantastic pro debut as he hit .320/.420/.456 with 21 extra-base hits (four homers) and 22 stolen bases in only 64 games. He’s a name to track. ETA: 2021

13. Kris Bubic, LHP

Age: 21 (8/19/97)

Highest Level: ROK

38 IP, 4.03 ERA, 3.97 FIP, 12.55 K/9, 4.50 BB/9, .253 AVG

Bubic was another one of the Royals college arms in this 2018 class. Bubic’s best pitch is his plus changeup that generates some silly swings due to the arm speed. Bubic might have the best fastball command of anyone in the system, and watching him paint the outside corner with fastballs while at Stanford was as thing of beauty. The fastball plays above average because he can spot it so well, but its’s an average offering with low-90s velocity. The breaking ball is what will decide Bubic’s role. Right now his curveball projects as an average pitch, and if it stays that way you have the makings of a solid number-four starter. He can bump himself up to a mid-rotation arm if the breaking ball jumps up. ETA: 2021

14. Yefri Del Rosario, RHP

Age: 19 (9/23/99)

Highest Level: A

79 IP, 3.19 ERA, 4.47 FIP, 8.20 K/9, 3.30 BB/9, .226 AVG

The Royals scooped up Del Rosario after the Braves were forced to release him to all of their international shenanigans. After getting $1 million from the Braves Del Rosario was able to get another $650k from the Royals. Prior to adding all of the pitching talent to the system in this years draft Rosario was the highest upside arm in the organization. Rosario was the youngest pitcher in the SAL in 2018, and he did more than hold his own. His fastball is his loudest pitch and it gets into the mid-90s. He’s got some feel for a breaking ball and it should be an above-average pitch but his role will ultimately come down to how effective the change up is. If that changeup plays his future is in the rotation. If not, he’s an electric pen arm. ETA: 2022

15. Meibrys Viloria, C

Age: 22 (2/15/97)

Highest Level: MLB

.260/.342/.360, 6 HR, .101 ISO, 103 wRC+, 9.8% BB, 18.4% K, 2 SB

.259/.286/.333, 0 HR, .074 ISO, 66 wRC+, 3.4% BB, 31% K, 0 SB

Viloria was already on the 40-man roster and a roster crunch combined with lack of catching depth in the upper minors equaled a September call-up for him. It was a bit jarring to see a catching prospect who didn’t exactly dominate the Carolina League at 21 get the call, but this is also an organization that had Mondesi make his MLB debut during the World Series. The former infield prospect has transitioned better than anyone could have imagined behind the plate and projects as a plus defender. He also threw out 41% of attempted base stealers in the minors. Viloria did have a season in Rookie Ball where he hit .376, so the offensive skills are there somewhere. He’s still figuring out his power stroke, but he’s got a body that you can project a few 15-homer seasons down the line. He has some pull-side pop already. He could be Salvador Perez’s backup as soon as this year, but in a perfect world he would get more seasoning in the upper minors. ETA: 2018

16. Richard Lovelady, LHP

Age: 23 (7/7/95)

Highest Level: AAA

73 IP, 2.47 ERA, 3.28 FIP, 8.75 K/9, 2.59 BB/9, .200 AVG

Lovelady is the first relief-only prospect on this list. Lovelady was a 10th-rounder out of Kennesaw State in 2016 and spent all of last season in the bullpen for Triple-A Omaha. He has a career ERA just a bump above 2.00 (2.02) while striking out over a batter per inning and posting strong ground-ball rates. Lovelady has a mid-90s heater and a plus slider. He’s not just a LOOGY and fits well in the backend of the Royals bullpen. ETA: 2019

17. Josh Staumont, RHP

Age: 25 (12/21/93)

Highest Level: AAA

74.1 IP, 3.51 ERA, 3.85 FIP, 12.47 K/9, 6.30 BB/9, .215 AVG

Sometimes I can’t let go of a prospect. Especially when there’s an arm like this involved. The Royals finally moved Staumont into the bullpen full-time in 2018 (except for a month-long rotation stint in June). The big strikeout numbers remained. He pairs his triple-digit heater with a big power curveball, but there are issues. Staumont’s walk numbers are as ugly as can be, but he did cut it a bit from 2017. It is interesting to note that most of his appearances were more than one inning, and that could be a bit of foreshadowing into what his future role could be. Staumont should see Kansas City sometime in 2019. ETA: 2019

18. Kelvin Gutierrez, 3B

Age: 24 (8/28/94)

Highest Level: AA

.275/.329/.400, 11 HR, .125 ISO, 102 wRC+, 7.0% BB, 21.1% K, 20 SB

The Royals obtained Gutierrez as part of the Kelvin Herrera deal with the Nationals this season. He’s plus defender at third with the arm to match, but he is just starting to tap into the power for the position. He hits the ball on the ground too much to fully tap into his average raw pop, but I don’t think 10-16 homers is out of the question with 20+ doubles, above-average defense and ten or so steals. As an overall package that will play. Gutierrez should spend 2019 in Triple-A Omaha and could get a late season call up. ETA: 2020

19. Blake Perkins, OF

Age: 22 (9/10/96)

Highest Level: A+

.237/.362/.305, 3 HR, .068 ISO, 99 wRC+, 15.4% BB, 22.5% K, 29 SB

The Royals acquired Perkins in the Kelvin Herrera trade with the Nationals. Perkins has a very unique profile. He’s a plus defender in the outfield that can play everyday based on those skills alone. In the box, Perkins just picked up switch hitting in 2016 and the results have been encouraging. He actually hit for more power from that side in 2017, but it looks to have flipped for 2018. At this point it doesn’t matter where he hits for more power from, but it has to happen soon. His lack of power will make his 15% walk rate a moot point, as pitchers will just attack Perkins since they are unlikely to get burned. His combination of OBP, speed, and defense make him an interesting investment in OBP formats for fantasy, because if he does hit you have a slam-dunk, everyday player that will hit at the top of the order for the Royals. Perkins has a lot of work to do, and will move slowly through the minors. ETA: 2021

20. Austin Cox, LHP

Age: 22 (3/28/97)

Highest Level: ROK

33.1 IP, 3.78 ERA, 2.76 FIP, 13.77 K/9, 4.05 BB/9, .228 AVG

The 2018 5th-rounder posted strikeout numbers north of 12 per nine during both seasons at Mercer. The fastball sits 90-92 but can bump up to 95 in short stints. His curveball is his best breaking ball, but he also mixes in a slider and a change. Cox was simply too advanced for Burlington, but that Lexington pitching staff was loaded. The Royals will probably get the most out of Cox if they put him in the bullpen, but I’d give him every opportunity to improve his command and deep arsenal by putting him in the rotation until you absolutely can’t anymore. ETA: 2021

21. Yohanse Morel, RHP

Age: 18 (8/23/2000)

Highest Level: ROK

47 IP, 4.02 ERA, 3.50 FIP, 9.96 K/9, 3.26 BB/9, .251 AVG

Morel was acquired from the Nationals in the Kelvin Herrera deal. The Nationals signed him for $100,000 out of the Dominican Republic. He’s an athletic kid, and the frame and delivery remind me a bit of Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez. Morel’s stuff has already ticked up since entering pro ball. What was once an 88-91 fastball is now in the mid-90s. He’s got room for a bit more as he gets stronger. The fastball has plenty of arm-side run. His changeup is a bit firmer than you’d like, but it does have some fade to the arm-side and he maintains his fastball arm speed. His slider is fringy at the moment, but it’s the pitch that will make or break him. Morel has a big arm. Look out for this kid. ETA: 2023

22. Emmanuel Rivera, 3B

Age: 22 (6/29/96)

Highest Level: A+

.274/.326/.416, 6 HR, .142 ISO, 108 wRC+, 6.8% BB, 14.8% K, 3 SB

Rivera was a 19th-round pick out of Puerto Rico in 2015. He fits a similar mold as newly acquired Kelvin Gutierrez as a third baseman with good defensive skills and projectable power. Rivera’s hit tool already shows through with his high contact rates and low strikeout rates. He’s an aggressive hitter so he won’t ever walk, but that approach works if you can hit for average, and Rivera can do that. I’d put a 40 or 45 on Rivera’s future power grade. There’s some strength here but he’s going to have to make a swing adjustment to get into that 15-20 homer mark because he hits the ball on the ground too much. He had ground-ball rates of up over 50% in both stops this year. Rivera has above-average defensive skills with the arm to match. There’s an average regular here at peak. ETA: 2021

23. Zach Haake, RHP

Age: 22 (10/8/96)

Highest Level: ROK

15.1 IP, 1.76 ERA, 4.17 FIP, 8.22 K/9, 2.35 BB/9, .170 AVG

Haake was the Royals sixth-rounder from the University of Kentucky. He has a projectable 6-foot-4 frame with the potential to have three above-average pitches in his fastball, slider, and changeup. His fastball is a plus pitch, and the other two have flashed at times, but are inconsistent offerings at present. Haake had some command issues, but had a nice pro debut (small sample caveats apply of course). Haake has shown that he has the ability to have a dominant secondary, and now its the Royals job to coax that out of him more consistently. ETA: 2021

24. Eric Cole, OF

Age: 22 (1/17/97)

Highest Level: ROK

.281/.353/.389, 1 HR, .108 ISO, 100 wRC+, 9.1% BB, 14.4% K, 6 SB

The Royals popped the switch-hitter out of Arkansas in the 4th round of the 2018 draft. Cole is a switch-hitter with a 55 hit tool and plus speed and was the leadoff hitter on the College World Series runner-up squad. Cole’s power spiked his final year on campus and he hit an impressive .313/.407/.520 with 14 homers. Cole has a good approach and a plan at the plate. He’s got that leadoff hitter skill set. Defensively I don’t think he can play center everyday, but will be a very good defender on the corners. His arm is above average, so he projects to play a pretty nice right field. He won’t have the power for an outfield corner though so he’s a future fourth outfielder down the line. ETA: 2021.

25. Jonathan Bowlan, RHP

Age: 22 (12/1/96)

Highest Level: ROK

35 IP, 6.94 ERA, 6.02 FIP, 5.91 K/9, 2.31 BB/9, .327 AVG

The Royals second round pick out of Memphis had a forgettable introduction to pro ball, but we all know you can’t put too much stock into a 35 inning sample right? Bowlan has a filthy fastball-slider combination with his 91- to 94-MPH fastball with a plus slider. The fastball can touch 97, so he has the makings of being a dominant late-inning arm with that arsenal. Bowlan gained 50 pounds while at Memphis and has the look of an innings-eating mid-rotation arm. With this many arms in the system someone has to go to the pen, and knowing that his stuff will play up in that role makes him a good candidate. ETA: 2021

26. Janser Lara, RHP

Age: 22 (8/10/96)

Highest Level: A

71.1 IP, 3.91 ERA, 3.71 FIP, 10.22 K/9, 3.91 BB/9, .233 AVG

Lara is another righty from Latin America with a big fastball. Lara has been clocked as high as 100 on the gun. The problem here is the secondaries aren’t reliable offerings. The curveball is the best secondary at present with its slurvy break. There’s significant reliever risk here. ETA: 2021.

27. Scott Blewett, RHP

Age: 22 (4/10/96)

Highest Level: AA

148.1 IP, 4.79 ERA, 4.39 FIP, 6.07 K/9, 2.97 BB/9, .278 AVG

Blewett had some first round buzz back in 2014, but a shoulder strain knocked him back to the Royals in the second round. The Royals were able to sign the New York native for $1.8 million. Blewett’s best pitch is his fastball that sits 90-93, but it plays up due to the extension he gets from his 6-6 frame. His curveball is an above-average pitch, but the command and the changeup both need some refinement. It’s not unusual for pitchers from this part of the country to put it together a bit later than their peers. I’m betting on that happening here, and if everything breaks right for Blewett we could have a solid back-end starter. ETA: 2020.

28. Sam McWilliams, RHP

Age: 23 (9/4/95)

Highest Level: AA

137.2 IP, 4.38 ERA, 4.06 FIP, 8.69 K/9, 3.20 BB/9, .267 AVG

As Elvis Luciano leaves the organization due to the Rule 5 Draft, tall righty Sam McWilliams enters. McWilliams stands at 6-foot-7, and has good stuff but has had inconsistent results in the minor leagues. The former 8th rounder in the 2014 draft now joins his fourth organization after being originally drafted by the Phillies then sent to Arizona and Tampa in a series of deals. The Royals grabbed McWilliams with the second overall pick in the 2018 Rule 5 Draft. His four-seamer bumps up into the mid-90s, and he also has a two-seamer in the low-90s. His best breaking ball is a slider which has flashed above-average but its an inconsistent offering at present. He hasn’t been able to develop a changeup to this point, so he’s likely destined for the bullpen. The Royals had some success last year with the Rule 5 Draft by grabbing Brad Keller out of the Diamondbacks organization. The hope here is that they can get lucky again with McWilliams. ETA: 2019.

29. Jeison Guzman, SS

Age: 20 (10/8/98)

Highest Level: A

.254/.327/.356, 4 HR, .102 ISO, 94 wRC+, 8.5% BB, 20.8% K, 26 SB

Our own Jason Woodell insisted that Guzman be included on this list, and he made some valid points. Guzman has a 60 glove at the most important position on the diamond. His smooth hands and footwork are fun to watch, and he has the arm to match. He’s a loose athlete with some physical projection. Offensively he lacks strength and struggles to drive the ball. He does take a walk and make enough contact to utilize his average speed. ETA: 2022.

30. Daniel Tillo, LHP

Age: 22 (6/13/96)

Highest Level: A+

134.1 IP, 4.76 ERA, 4.20 FIP, 6.70 K/9, 4.35 BB/9, .262 AVG

The numbers don’t jump off the page here, but I’ll admit I’ve always had a bit of a thing for Tillo and his ground-ball heavy profile. He’s a big physical lefty standing at 6-foot-5. His fastball has bowling-ball like sink as it comes at 91-94. His slider is an above-average pitch with two-plane depth, and he mixes in an occasional change. Tillo posted a strong ~60% ground ball rate which is the type of player you find a spot in your bullpen for. ETA: 2021.