It’s been a long time coming for the Kansas City Royals, but they finally tasted the sweet fizz of championship champagne last fall, and it was all due to Jonny Gomes. I’m not sure if you know this, but he’s the kind of guy you want to go to war with. Hacksaw Jonny musings aside, the Royals built a winner the old fashioned way. And by old fashioned I mean good drafting, solid player development, and excellent trading. In the process, they’ve graduated quite a few players onto their major league squad, traded some for established vets, and let others take the time needed to fully develop. The aftermath is there isn’t a ton of sexy fantasy prospects anymore, but the farm’s not barren, and there are some really intriguing players in the low minors. Dayton Moore and his constituents stuck to their philosophy, and in the end they’re the poster children for why prospects matter. Just ask Baseball America!
Tier 1: Specs On The Beach
Potential stars. Consensus T100 prospects with premium fantasy ceilings
Raul Mondesi, SS | Age: 20 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AA
2015 Stats: 338 PA, .243/.279/.372, 6 HR, 19 SB, 5.0% BB, 26.0% K
After a whirlwind season that took him from AA to the World Series, Mondesi looks primed for a season at AAA with some matinee appearances for the Royals mixed in for good measure. At this point he’s a glove first speedster with some power upside. He’s the kind of guy that you’ll see described as “toolsy”, with the more positive evaluations focusing on those tools, rather than his actual skills. He’s developed into a good runner, and has moments of greatness, but he’s hardly a sure thing to be the offensive star us fantasy folk are seeking. There’s some chance he breaks into the majors as the starting second baseman with Escobar in town for a few more years.
Kyle Zimmer, RHP | Age: 24 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: A+/AA
2015 Stats: 64 IP, 2.39 ERA, 2.8 BB/9, 10.1 K/9
You fall into two camps on Zimmer, you’re either a believer and think he’s ready to break out, or you read the injury history and run for the nearest hill. There’s a little truth on both sides. Let’s focus on the good, he’s a big righty with a fastball in the 92-94 range that touches 97. He’s also the owner of a grade 70 curveball. At this point Zimmer is a risk/reward guy who’s buy low window could be closing. For the record I like Zimmer, and have bought a few shares myself.
Tier 2: Floorboreds
Lacking the “star” upside. They might have some warts, but their ETAs are on the horizon.
Bubba Starling , OF | Age: 23 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: A+/AA
2015 Stats: 418 PA, .269/.337/.448, 12 HR, 6 SB, 8.8% BB, 25.8% K
We should just rename the floorboard tier the Bubba Starling all-stars. Starling’s never going to be the player he was hoped to be going 5th overall in 2011, but he’s a future major league with a closer ETA. He’ll make his bones as an excellent defensive outfielder, but he could see enough at bats that a couple of useful fantasy seasons are possible. He’s got a little speed and a little power, and maybe 15/10 is what we can hope for in his peak years.
Jorge Bonifacio, OF | Age: 22 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AA
2015 Stats: 536 PA, .240/.305/.416, 17 HR, 3 SB, 7.8% BB, 23.5% K
The 2015 season was a breakout one for Bonifacio’s power stroke. His homers jumped from 4 to 17, and his extra base hits from 28 to 49. What was once a plus hit tool has been transformed into a plus power tool. That’s really where it begins and ends for Bonifacio, he doesn’t walk a ton, and doesn’t have any plus skill outside his power hitting. For our purposes if you’re going to have one plus skill, power’s the one to have. It’s just nice when it comes with speed, plate discipline, or some batting average. You get none of the later three with Bonifacio.
Cheslor Cuthbert, 1B/3B | Age: 23 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AAA/MLB
2015 Stats: 438 PA, .277/.339/.421, 11 HR, 5 SB, 8.4% BB, 13.7% K
In many ways Cuthbert is a typical Royals prospect, a solid all around ball player with no particular outstanding skill. He’s consistently made progress at every level and found himself in the big leagues at 22. He’s not going to unseat Moustakas or Hosmer at the corners, but he could find some playing time if there is an injury to either. At his peak he’ll be a .280 hitter with about 10-12 homers.
Miguel Almonte, RHP | Age: 22 | ETA: 2017 | 2015 Level: AA/AAA/MLB
2015 Stats: 103.2 IP, 4.51 ERA, 3.6 BB/9, 8.3 K/9
After a rough MLB debut (4 homers, 6 earned in 9 innings), the hard throwing Dominican righty should head back to AAA Omaha for some more seasoning. He mixes an excellent change with a 94-97 mph fastball, and an average to below average curveball. Many project the finished product to be a mid rotation starter, but in order for Almonte to get there he’s going to need to work on commanding his pitches.
Matt Strahm, LHP | Age: 24 | ETA: 2017 | 2015 Level: A/A+
2015 Stats: 94 IP, 2.59 ERA, 3.0 BB/9, 11.6 K/9
After sitting out a majority of his first two years in pro ball, Strahm moved across two levels of A ball and flashed the ability that made him a star in Juco. At this point Strahm looks likely to reach the bigs as a reliever or lefty specialist. The arsenal includes a low 90’s fastball, a below average curve, and a nasty sluvy pitch that’s extra tough on lefties. He’s another arm in the Royals farm that some project to be a mid-rotation guy, but he screams loogy to me.
Ryan O’Hearn, 1B | Age: 22 | ETA: 2017 | 2015 Level: A/A+
2015 Stats: 537 PA, .263/.339/.478, 27 HR, 7 SB, 10.2% BB, 26.2% K
A big strong power hitting first baseman with a strikeout problem. You could pretty much begin and end there with O’Hearn. His upside is probably limited by the strikeouts and the lack of batting average, he hit .236 in 46 games at high A, but anyone with power upside is worth keeping an eye on in deeper dynasty formats. It will be interesting to see how much O’Hearn progresses if he spends the season at AA NW Arkansas.
Brett Eibner, OF | Age: 27 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AAA
2015 Stats: 431 PA, .303/.364/.514, 19 HR, 10 SB, 8.8% BB, 18.3% K
Want an off the radar outfielder that could make an impact this season? Try Eibner on for size, he’s an old prospect at 27, but he’s been toiling around the minors for a while and popped up on my radar with a .303/19/81/10 season in 103 games at AAA. He’s a solid OBP guy with some pop and enough speed to swipe a couple of bags. He’s also a good defender that could play all three outfield positions. If there are any injuries to the Royals opening day outfield, Eibner could find himself serving fill in duty with the world champs.
Jose Martinez, OF | Age: 27 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AAA
2015 Stats: 396 PA, .384/.461/.563, 10 HR, 8 SB, 12.1% BB, 13.9% K
After leading the minors in batting average (.384), and on base percentage (.461), the former White Sox prospect could finally be reaching his potential. It’s not unheard of for washed up specs to find their strokes in their late 20’s and parlay it into a decent career. Nelson Cruz comes to mind, but in no way is 2016 Martinez on the same plain as 2009 Nelson Cruz, just an example that illustrates that it does happen. The big difference is Martinez will need to make his bones on his hit tool, and not power like Cruz. We’re probably talking 10-15 home run power, with a decent average, and on base skills. The Royals added him to the 40 man roster, which indicates they’re at least willing to see if last year was a flash in the pan or not.
Long Shot Lolita’s
Sexy ceilings, but these youngsters also come with risks and distant ETAs.
Nolan Watson, RHP | Age: 19 | ETA: 2019 | 2015 Level: RK
2015 Stats: 29.1 IP, 4.91 ERA, 3.4 BB/9, 4.9 K/9
This is where things get a bit interesting, the Royals dipped into the prep arms pretty heavy the last few years, and Watson seems the safest of the bunch. Not that high school players are ever safe. His arsenal includes a sinking fastball, slider, and a newly learned curveball.
Ashe Russell, RHP | Age: 19 | ETA: 2019 | 2015 Level: RK
2015 Stats: 36.1 IP, 4.21 ERA, 3.2 BB/9, 5.9 K/9
The second half of this season’s first round prep duo, and the bad boy of the two. Not really, but it seemed cliche, and sounded cool. Anyway, Russell is your high upside raw high school player. He throws a mid to high 90’s fastball, and mixes in a slider, a curveball, and he’s learning a change up from the sounds of it.
Josh Staumont, RHP | Age: 22 | ETA: 2018 | 2015 Level: RK
2015 Stats: 40 IP, 2.48 ERA, 7.2 BB/9, 13.0 K/9
Another early round arm from the 2015 draft, only this one touches triple digits on the fastball. He’s being discussed as a reliever in what I’ve read, but it will be interesting to see how fast he moves in 2016. He’s one of those arms every system has, crazy high k rate and crazy high walk rate.
Marten Gasparini, SS | Age: 18 | ETA: 2020 | 2015 Level: RK
2015 Stats: 233 PA, .259/.341/.411, 2 HR, 26 SB, 00% BB, 00% K
Between Max Kepler and Gasparini, Europe could have some legitimate MLB players soon enough. Well that’s a bit more than a bit of hyperbole. Signed out of Italy as a 16 year old, and he’s truly Italian, grew up there, etc. He sounds like he could be best described as a raw switch hitting middle infielder with plus running ability.
Scott Blewett, RHP | Age: 19 | ETA: 2019 | 2015 Level: A
2015 Stats: 81.1 IP, 5.20 ERA, 2.7 BB/9, 6.6 K/9
Another prep arm with a plus fastball and mid rotation stuff. Fun fact he’s a walking pun! For this reason alone I featured him on this list and will say a prayer every night until he makes the majors.
Foster Griffin, LHP | Age: 20 | ETA: 2019 | 2015 Level: A
2015 Stats: 102.2 IP, 5.44 ERA, 3.1 BB/9, 6.2 K/9
An appropriate way to close out the post, a prep arm. A 2014 first round pick that finished 2015 strong at low A. He’s a command and control pitcher that relies on precision and not stuff. He throws an average fastball, an above average change, and a meh curveball. Seems like a borp to me.