I was born just days after the 1980 World Series – a match between my beloved Phils and the focus of this minor league preview…the Kansas City Royals. Since I wasn’t really conscious, I totally missed out on perhaps the two greatest third basemen of all time (yeah I see you Brooks) going head to head. I do have old pictures though. My favorite is Schmidt and Brett clinking glasses with what appears to be spiked lemonade while sitting in director’s chairs and leaning on baseball bats. I don’t think the next George Brett is in this year’s KC system. In fact, the Royals are limited to only one Grade A prospect (a recently drafted pitcher) and half of this year’s list fell into the ‘C’ tier. So it’s not exactly a powerhouse. But hey, at least the Royals provided (in my opinion) the greatest moment of the 2018 season…
1. Brady Singer, RHP | Age: 22 | ETA: 2020
Singer is likely the lone representative from this system once the top 100 lists come out. The Royals took him 18th overall in the 2018 draft out of Florida and he’ll get his first taste of pro ball this season. The fastball and slider have both earned plus grades, and his control is above average, but the ceiling is limited to a real-life 2/3 starter. That said, he’s a college arm that should coast pretty quickly through the minors and be able to help rosters looking to compete in the next 2-3 years.
2. Nick Pratto, 1B | Age: 20 | ETA: 2021
I honestly like all four guys listed next, but I’m ranking Pratto first because I think he has the highest floor and the most balanced offensive profile of the bunch. He hit .280 with 14 homers and 22 steals in the Sally in 2018 with a 28% strikeout rate and a 9% walk rate. The K-rate concerns me quite a bit, but he can also take a walk so I’m interested to see what he does in the upper minors to adjust. I could see him being the type of fantasy first baseman who surprises people off the waiver wire with like 25 homers out of nowhere, or a fantasy first baseman you want to murder because all he does is hit line drives.
3. Nicky Lopez, 2B/SS | Age: 23 | ETA: 2019
I tend to value pure hitting over other tools when I’m compiling these lists. Lopez scores well in that area. He’s also close to the majors with success in the upper minors, which is another factor I tend to value. For a guy with below-average power, the fact that he hit nine homers between Double-A and Triple-A in 2018 was a pleasant surprise. Mix in his 15 steals and .308 average and I’m sold. Need more? His strikeout and walk rates were nearly identical in Triple-A (11%). That’s Jennifer Connelly beautiful.
4. Khalil Lee, OF | Age: 20 | ETA: 2020
Lee has some strikeout issues but he has posted good walk rates in the minors and has already touched Double-A (appropriately of course). In 2017 he hit 17 bombs, but that dropped to just six in 2018. I’m not really sure what happened to the game pop, but my guess is he traded some of it in for AVG/OBP (he hit .237/.344 in 2017 compared to .263/.382 in 2018). There’s potential here for a 12-15 homer, 20+ steal player. He’s probably in the top tier on traditional lists thanks to his defense.
5. Seuly Matias, OF | Age: 20 | ETA: 2021
All the chips for Matias are stacked on his approach. He hit 31 bombs in 2018, but it came with a 35% (not a typo) strikeout percentage. If you’re keeping score, that’s not good. So basically you’re gambling that the kid figures it out on the hitting side and that the raw power comes shining through in games. If he was a stock, I wouldn’t buy him, but I wouldn’t sell him either. I’d wait and see if he can do anything with pitching in the upper minors. It could get really ugly and you jettison him, or he starts to click and you’ve got a serious power asset on your hands.
6. Kelvin Gutierrez, 3B | Age: 24 | ETA: 2019
I was tempted to go up a tier with Gutierrez thanks to his plus arm at the hot corner and balanced offensive skills. He was a main chip in the Kelvin Herrera trade and at 24 he’s pretty much Triple-A/MLB ready. His 2018 numbers provided a good glimpse at his potential – .275 with 11 homers and 20 steals. The power is still developing and could surprise down the road. The downside is that former first-round pick Hunter Dozier is slotted to play third which blocks Gutierrez’s opportunities in the near future.
7. Daniel Lynch, LHP | Age: 22 | ETA: 2021
Left-handed pitching sandwich, coming up! Lynch is the first piece of lefty bread…a potential 3/4 starter with average or better stuff across the board (including control). He’s a tall drink of water the Royals took with one of their first round picks last year. His debut was solid, especially in the strikeout department. He punched out almost eleven per nine while walking just 1.4 per nine. I’d bet he beats the 2021 ETA.
8. Jackson Kowar, RHP | Age: 22 | ETA: 2021
Another first round pick, Kowar has better “stuff” than Lynch but lacks the same polish and upside. He threw about 26 innings in 2018, striking out 22 and walking 12. I could see him needing a little more time to work things out in the minors in order to reach his mid-rotation potential. Fun fact…he was a teammate of Brady Singer at Florida. Who’s Brady Singer? Scroll up and start reading this article all over again.
9. Kris Bubic, LHP | Age: 21 | ETA: 2021
The bottom bread in our lefty sandwich is Mr. Bubic. Mr. Bubic would be a fantastic name for a substitute teacher. Just close enough to a funny word to incite chortles, giggles, snickers, and the like. I will call him Mr. Boobdick. He’s not much different than the other two…average stuff, 2018 draftee, mid-rotation upside…you know the drill. Mr. Bubic’s control wasn’t so hot in his debut season, but Mr. Bubic could strike a mother out…nearly 13 per nine in the Pioneer League.
10. MJ Melendez, C | Age: 20 | ETA: 2021
With our tenth pick we don’t have a hotshot teenage prospect with tons of upside. We have a catching prospect with limited offensive upside. Also, a child has already solved the jumble using crayons. The answer is fries. Melendez has average power but a shaky hit tool. I could see him as a depth piece in one of those batshizz-crazy deep dynos or two-catcher jawns, but that’s about it.