Bobby the Witt leads a crew of young bangers simmering in Kansas City. Ace Lacey, Nicky Pratto, Vinnie P, Frank the Maserati and MJ Melendez give us a glimpse at the ghost of Christmas future in KC.

Full disclosure here. I slipped up and wrote Bibbt Wutt Jr. at one point. Bibbt–wutt? Then my phone wrote Bobby Whipit. Like when a problem comes along, Bobby Whip it! In this case, the problem is several losing seasons in a row. Typos, amiright? I’m getting light-headed over here, but that’s probably just the Royals’ sunflare future vibing in my blood. Let’s check the system. 

 

Format: Position Player | Age on 4/1/2022 | Highest level played | ETA

1. SS Bobby Witt Jr. | 21 | AAA | 2022

If you’re reading prospect lists during a holiday-season lockout, you could probably write this blurb yourself. Bobby Witt Jr. has been a named guy since his high school days, and I think he’s already met or exceeded the hype he brought into his draft season. Historically speaking, few men have posted 33 HR 29 SB seasons across the top two MiLB levels during their age 20/21 campaigns. I don’t have a number on that. I’m not even sure how to begin such a search. Kyle Tucker went 24/20 during his age 21 season in AAA. The few players who could’ve matched this feat–Tatis and Acuna, specifically–were in the majors before they had a chance, and Witt belonged there last year, too. It’s fine to let him slash .285/.352/.581 with 17 HR and 15 SB across 62 AAA games, but it also feels unique to our current paradigm. Don’t pay a guy a dime if you’re not “contending” at the big league level. Nevermind this is a professional sport. Anywho, Dayton Moore has given the world hope that Witt will leave spring training with the big league club, and maybe he will, but it doesn’t really matter for our purposes, unless you’re jumping him up in the top 50 range on redraft leagues. Tough to pay that back for a rookie who loses about 15 games off the top.

 

2. C MJ Melendez | 23 | AAA | 2022

Nobody enhanced their prospect profile more than MJ Melendez, who cut his strikeout rate by an astounding 18 percentage points and led the minor leagues in home runs. His ability to let the ball travel deep into the zone and blast it to the opposite field is unique among hitters I’ve seen this year, or any year really, and I’m struggling to find a comp for that particular life-hack of his. His 17.4%/21.% BB/K rate in 44 AAA games is dreamy like a Jordan jumper. He hit 13 HR in those 44 games and slashed .293/.413/.620 after blasting 28 HR in 79 AA games. That’s 41 HR in 121 games if you’re counting at home.

Salvy are you okay? Salvy are you okay? Are you okay, Salvy? 

Might have some plate appearance hit by, might get struck by, a smooth criminal. 

Except not really. The playing time angle here doesn’t worry me at all. Melendez is a solid defensive catcher, so he can spell Perez here or there while playing DH, OF and maybe even some 3B and/or 1B. If you can hit like these catchers in KC, you’ll be in the lineup most days. 

 

3. 1B Nick Pratto | 23 | AAA | 2022

Like a lot of Royals prospects, Pratto made excellent swing decisions in 2021. He didn’t halve his K-rate like Melendez, but he did blast 36 HR and swipe 12 bags in 124 games across the top two MiLB levels, slashing .265/.385/.602 with a 155 wRC+ in 61 games at AA and a 156 wRC+ in 63 games at AAA. He had some streaks here and there, but production doesn’t get much more consistent than that among players whose seasons span multiple levels. Like Witt and Melendez, Pratto had earned a shot at the majors by season’s end. Or perhaps by the midpoint, depending on your perspective. The top three here should share a lineup card in Kauffman by the end of April, and it will be nice to infuse this team with some optimism and offense, but Pratto’s plus glove at first base will make the whole infield look better, too.

 

4. 1B Vinnie Pasquatino | 24 | AA | 2022

You might still have time to buy Vinnie P, who’s probably been a tough out his whole life. He struck out just 28 times in 58 games (263 PA, 10.6 %) as a freshman everyday starter at Old Dominion, slashing .321/.397/.473 with 5 HR. I only go back that far as a sign that this was par for the course for Vinnie, dominating two professional levels in 2021, culminating in a 13.1%/11% BB/K rate, 11 HR and 2 SB with a .310/.405/.560 slash line across 55 games at AA. The strikeout rates are absurd for a power hitter his size: 6’4” 245 lbs. An 11th round pick (319 overall) in 2019, Pasquantino probably wasn’t part of the long term picture coming into the season, but I don’t know how you map the Royals future lineup without him at this point. He and Nick Pratto are both left handed, and I wouldn’t think Pasquantino can cover a corner in Kauffman Stadium, so that leaves just Designated Hitter on an everyday basis. He’ll have to rake and rake to make that happen, but I see no reason to bet against him at this point.

 

5. LHP Asa Lacy | 22 | A+ | 2023

Looked more like Mid-rotation Lacy in his first 52 innings as a professional, walking 7.1 batters per nine (17.3%) and earning a 1.58 WHIP across 14 starts in High-A. He did strike out 33.3 percent of the batters he faced (13.67 K/9), but he didn’t pitch after a July 21 outing in which he hit three batters, walked three, and allowed four runs in 2.2 innings. I couldn’t find specifics about the injury that sidelined him, but that was a wrap on his debut summer. He got better results in the Fall league but still walked seven per nine and said he was adjusting to the big-league ball, which makes sense, given how it keeps changing.

 

6. 2B Michael Massey | 24 | A+ | 2023

Massey was playing well enough to graduate this level at any time, really, but the Royals left him there for 99 games, slashing .289/.351/.531 with 21 HR and 12 SB, striking out just 68 times (15.5%). He’s behind the age-to-level curve, but I don’t care. He’s a 2019 draftee (109 overall), so he’s had two pro chances and hit well in both (105 and 135 wRC+ in 2019 and 2021). This is just who he’s always been. He hit at Illinois. He hit in the Cape Cod League. A back injury cost him some games and money in his draft season. A lefty bat at 6’0” 190 pounds, Massey is a natural-looking hitter, fouling off touch pitches and going the other way when the opportunity presents itself. I think he’s underrated in dynasty circles.

 

7. OF Kyle Isbel | 25 | MLB | 2021 

A 5’11” 190 lb lefty, Isbel struggled early after winning a starting job in Spring Training, slashing .265/.306/.324 with a 41.7 percent strikeout rate in 12 games before being sent down to AAA, where he got the train back on track through the long season and returned to the majors in September. He hit .286/.362/.524 with a 10.6%/17.% BB/K rate, 1 HR and 1 SB in 16 games. Please allow me to be a stock talking head for a moment so I can confidently declare he’s probably somewhere in between those outcomes. So helpful, that statement always is. He’s closer to September Isbel than April Isbel. In 105 games at AAA, he hit 15 home runs, stole 22 bases and struck out 20.2 percent of the time. If he’s even a little like that as a big leaguer, he’ll be a bargain at redraft tables this winter and a must-start in just about any kind of league.

 

8. SS Nick Loftin | 23 | A+ | 2023

The 32nd overall pick of 2020’s shortened draft, Loftin was seen by some as a floor play because he’s a good contact hitter with the skills to remain up the middle on defense. His type often pops for deep leagues because he does the hardest part well: making consistent contact. The 6’1” 190 lb right handed hitter slashed .289/.373/.463 with 10 HR and 11 SB in 90 games at High-A, posting an impressive 10.2%/14.6% BB/K rate and setting himself up for a multi-level season in 2022. I won’t be surprised if he’s a big-league option by September.

 

9. LHP Frank Mozzicato | 18 | NA | 2025

I feel like RHP Jonathan Bowlan has earned this spot, or perhaps one quite a bit higher here, but he was shut down and needed Tommy John surgery, and we don’t have minor league IL spots in dynasty leagues (hey why the face not?), so I’ll save a spot for Frank Mozzicato, who fits perfectly with our gangster name theme from the intro and was the 7th overall pick in the 2021 draft. A 6’3” 175 lb lefty, Mozzicato built some buzz by throwing four straight no-hitters against high school hitters in Connecticut. Fame has been built on less, and this won’t be the last time Maserati cruises into the news. He’s a pitchability lefty with good stuff and plus command. Fastball, curveball, changeup lefties that can throw all three for strikes tend to carve up low-level hitters, so I’m not sure when we’ll have a good read here, but I do expect he’ll look like a pretty sharp 2021-22 FYPD pick by this time next year.

 

10. OF Darryl Collins | 20 | A | 2025

At 6’2” 185 lbs, Collins brings hope for power from the left side (he defends right-handed), but he didn’t find much in his first try at full-season ball. His slash line of .246/.367/.338 with 5 HR and 15 SB in 86 games would look okay for a lead-off type, and the Royals will likely be happy if that’s what Collins indeed becomes at the upper levels, but there’s also hints of more behind the curtain here. Collins grew up in the Netherlands, so we might want to allow him a little more development time than the typical prospect about whom we jump to conclusions, like they’re on a mat, and we can just jump to them. Collins does not belong on the jump-to-conclusions mat, is what I’m saying, no matter what you hear from Smykowski. A little extra patience might be in store here, is what I mean. Same goes for Erick Pena, who struggled enough to damage his dynasty value but has to be tracked closely.

Thanks for reading!

I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.

24 Comments
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Todd
Todd
6 months ago

Yo! Straight struggling on who to value more. Miguel Vargas or Nick Pratto

Ones got the prestigee but the other has been super consistant

goodfold2
goodfold2
7 months ago

almost time for this 30 teamer’s extremely early 6 round draft. 6×6 (OPS/holds added). 40 max minor slots (till 150/50). been catching up for about a week (about 5 teams back on your posts thusly, about to spend the 10 per month at PL to get a long list that i’ll need, roughly 3 names per team list not owned so far). got this so far and after 6 consecutive years of 18th-24th picks each round i’m now at 6th in all rounds (and assuming c.sale gets bid up to at least 15 mil per year (very likely)) i’d also get a 1st + 2nd round supplemental picks if i don’t keep him. bidding on the restricted FA is this week. 130 mil budget. currently at around 83% of the budget left (this is before matching or not matching sale/j.turner’s bids).
important note on player obtaining: outside of trades and waiver guys (who’s contacts do NOT become multi year deals unlike a drafted prospect, unless you used one of the 3 offseason tags on somebody you waivered, so those are rare) nobody can be obtained at all outside of this 6 round draft. and this draft is only way to get prospects on long term league min deals (bidding on FA only applies to non prospect elig not owned players, and that month+ of bidding takes place after draft).

C (1)
CI (2): d.ellis (league min .4 mil per till end of 2025)
: j.turner (restrict tag, last contract was by me at around 16ish mil, he was easily best CI guy not owned at the time, him i’d likely keep as i doubt he’ll cost as much as sale)
MI (2):
OF (3): adell (.4, 24), fraley (.4, 24), e.rosario (14.67 per, 24, matched bid from last year)
util (1): kirilloff (.4 24)
BN: trammell (.4, 24)

SP (3, but probably want 6 or so): c.hernandez (.4, 24), pab lop (franchise tagged, pay real life money, he’s in arb, .595, 22), w.crowe (.4, 24), c.sale
RP (3, but also 3 P slots, so 6 wanted): m.diplan (.4, 25)
DL: barreto (MI, league min .4 till 22), e.rios (.4, 24), sherfy (.4, 24)

prospects:
CI: mayo, vientos, k.padlo, k.smith (TOR, not mallrats), w.craig, b.denton, lavalley, a.tejeda (ex TEX now STL)
MI: nick gonz (my first ever high pick at 1.6 last year), bracho, i.paredes (CI), r.preciado, w.perez (DET), a.rondon (ex TB)
OF: pages, b.bailey (WSOX), c.brannen, g.whitley (ex TB), p.gonzalez (ex MI, ex TEX), v.garcia (STL), d.cozens, victor to the 2nd mesa (yikes, a 1st rounder once), t.ornelas
SP: m.sauer, j.bowlan (one of your large list jumpers last year), m.thompson (WSOX), n.swiney, kochanowicz, c.rodriguez (LAA)
RP: kilome, j.delacruz (ex ATL), j.soriano (ex LAA now PIT), j.guzman (of the stanton trade), a.smith (ex SD)

1. so far i’ve seen you say suzuki would be the 1.1. 27 isn’t too old of course so that’s good. rule here is if he’s not signed to somebody by MLB’s day 1 of season the pick used you get the pick after it next year, so if say i went him at 1.6 now he’d be 2023 1.6a pick at 7th overall. what % of the time you think he’s not signing that being the case? i read a bit about him, hit better than otani did before he came over (over a longer time period too as he’s a good bit older than otani was when he was still playing in japan)

2. what other internationals would you have anywhere near your top 100 (i’m grabbing not owned guys from that and the team lists for an attempt at an overall not owned list), i’ve seen about nothing on any of them (some of them do pop up in your team lists already of course).

3. haven’t finished going over all of it yet, but d.harris TEX was (that i could find) mentioned one time in any late year last year updates but was VERY high in the sept top 100 too. very high. trying to see where he’d rank as if i just took that top 100 by itself he’d be the pick at 1.6, but i doubt anybody would have to pay near that. he was spots higher than anybody just drafted (h.davis 2 spots later at 35th). wow, i’m actually lined up to possibly draft a catcher, crazy.

goodfold2
goodfold2
Reply to  goodfold2
7 months ago

oh yeah drafted prospects don’t even start their contract clocks till brought up so everybody is listed as 2025 in prospect slots, anybody drafted just now would be 2026. not aged based, so suzuki if say does sign, he’d be a .4 till end of 26.

Matt
Matt
7 months ago

Great writeup! Your Pratto entry makes it seem like you think MJ spends a lot of time in the majors getting fairly regular playing time – am I interpreting that correctly? I have not been considering him even late in redrafts, because it feels like if Santana and Dozier are even just OK, there’s no room for him, and if one of them faceplants, Pratto could be the one to benefit. Melendez is going in round 27 in DCs – not a huge deal but still early enough where you should be careful not to burn the pick. What do you think?

NUX
NUX
7 months ago

I didn’t expect him in the list at all. But wondering if you have a Clay Dungan take at all. Just learned about him recently and have him in The queue for a real deep supplemental type draft later in the winter.

Thx Itch! Happy Holidays to you and your fam

NUX
NUX
Reply to  NUX
7 months ago

Oh and also Carson Tucker. Just acquired him for pennies in a trade in that same deep league mentioned and missed my chance to ask on the “Guardians” post

IV
IV
7 months ago

On the topic of Royals, though he is no longer a prospect, I would love to hear any thoughts you have on Edward Olivares for dynasty purposes.

Sport
Sport
7 months ago

Thanks Itch! It’s always fun reading more takes on my Royals! I’m really interested to see how Massey and Vinnie do moving forward (besides Lacy’s control). If Vinnie can translate his success in KC better than guys like O’Hearn and McBroom, he could be a major piece to their success if they want to compete for the division.

I think KC has some decent positional depth throughout, but one position I just don’t know about is center field. So many bats in the corner outfield, but none of them seem to long term answers in the middle, which has always been a key to KC competing. That’s what explains the contract to MA Taylor.

Anyone you notice feels like a future CF piece?

P.S. Ever imagine two years ago, that today’s top 10 would not include Erik Pena or Seuly Matias? Maybe they can some breakthrough’s like MJ and Pratto did!

Sport
Sport
Reply to  The Itch
7 months ago

Loftin would be interesting! And I have thought the same thing about Isbel. Him and Olivares have logged time in CF but it’s pretty minimal I think and not ideal moving forward. They just project better in the COF. Really going to be interesting to see what the future plans will be in the middle.

I’m also struggling to temper my hopes for Mondesi. I think he could end up with 3B,SS,OF eligibility in a couple of my leagues, but I cant’ wait to see what KC’s plan is with him. I read somewhere that Mondy had never had to train for a long season and might approach this offseason differently. I hope it works out.

I’m one of the KC fans that love Taylor in CF. To me, he is the ‘Alcides Escobar’ of the line up. The key is, his bat is not a liability in the 8th or 9th spot, but KC has to get production out of the other 7 or 8 spots.

bigbear
bigbear
7 months ago

Love the team prospect lists, Itch! Thanks for your passion!

KC is ready to take that next step in a tough division! Best of luck to them.

Philip
Philip
7 months ago

Thanks, Itch! Good stuff as usual. I’m thrilled that I grabbed Melendez when he was slugging in AA. Can’t remember who I dropped to get him, but that’s probably a good thing.

What kind of a career comp. are we seeing for Melendez? Dude hit a lot of dingers at age 22 in the upper minors. And he’s a decent catcher! Seems pretty special.

However, we see catchers hit just fine in the minors only to become .225 hitters with 20 homer power in MLB. Will MJ become more than just another bad average, moderate power guy? Or are we looking at Mike Piazza 2.0 and we should never consider trading him from our deep dynasty rosters?

Thanks, homie! Love your articles!

Ante GALIC
Ante GALIC
7 months ago

The Itch!!!

Awesome!

a. Saw the ZiPS projections for the Twins. A few takeaways.

1. They don’t like Sano and Larnach.
2. They like Ryan somewhat (1.2 WAR) and gave Buxton the Joe Carter comparison (he had a 30/30 season so there’s hope for Bux.
3. The Royals are next.

b. Sorry I know it’s KC but outside of the top 3 who are taken everywhere, kind of boring and I’m scared of April Isbel showing up.

c. Norm MacDonald quote of the day for December 22, 2021

‘There’s a new kitty litter out on the market that’s made from wheat. Their slogan? Kitty litter just got a whole lot tastier.’

d. Marx Brothers quote of the day for December 22, 2021

‘Paying alimony is like feeding hay to dead horse.’

Cheers,
Ante

Ante Galic
Ante Galic
Reply to  The Itch
7 months ago

The Itch!!

Lol on the quote. Something like 700m $ (season 20, episode with George Foreman host from Dec 17, 1994, so 1994 value of 700M $) was invested in putting the wheat in the kitty litter meanwhile children are starving in Africa. I used that starving children in Africa ploy with the kids when they were younger, now at 22 and 18 it doesn’t work anymore.

Sano has a -38 UZR projected this year. He was a butcher at first, second worst…surprise it’s HOFmer.

Cheers,
Ante

Jimmy
Jimmy
7 months ago

Thanks again Itch! Short and sweet! Melendez or Gabriel Moreno? Your column is fantasy gold!

Jimmy
Jimmy
Reply to  The Itch
7 months ago

I could drop Lewin Diaz, Gavin Sheets or Brandon Marsh

joe
joe
Reply to  The Itch
6 months ago

whose up 1st in 2022?

kcc26
kcc26
7 months ago

hey itch! not royals related but prospects galore!

40 man roster, $400 budget dynasty points league. I can keep as many as I want at these prices. (holes to be filled at auction):

C: Realmuto $18
1B: Alonso $28
2b:
ss: wander $22
3b:
MI: oneil cruz $6
OF: Acuña $60
OF: Mullins $11
OF: Reynolds $9
OF: A. Garcia $3
OF: J. Sanchez $3
Util:

Bench: Toro $5, josh rojas $3

minors: Abrams $2, brennen davis $2, alek thomas $3, corbin carroll $3, robert hassell III $3, nick gonzales $3, nick yorke $2, orelvis martinez $2, luis matos $3 veen $3

If I keep everyone, that brings me to 32 players on my full roster including pitching. I figure i need to add at least those 8 at auction to supplement offense and add a few more arms. I’ve already traded a few prospects and tried to consolidate where possible. Are there any prospects here you would cut based on proximity v ceiling? i’m tempted to hold all to see who raises their stock even further, but it will hurt my chances of competing this year some. if you HAD to cut one or two, who would they be (hypothetically)?

thanks!

kcc26
kcc26
Reply to  The Itch
7 months ago

thanks! i was debating cutting veen bc holding him at $3 seems steep given that he may not debut until 2024 or so. but i know the ceiling is high there.

do you think Thomas is an above average contributor this year?

thanks again!