In a baseball universe flickering with intentional losing, the Royals employ a bold strategy: trying. They haven’t seen much success of late, but that’s largely due to the natural contention cycling of a small market club. Also due in part to the death of young fireballer Yordano Ventura, whose innings could’ve gone a long way toward bridging from one cycle to the next. This group of prospects isn’t quite as promising as the Hosmer Moose crew that brought home a title, but it’s not overly optimistic to compare the two. Brighter times are coming to Kauffman Stadium.
Format: Position Player | Age on 4/1/2021 | Highest level played | ETA
1. SS Bobby Witt Jr. | 20 | R Az | 2023
Witt reportedly impressed at the training site, facing pitchers with much more professional experience than himself. He took multiple at bats against every pitcher on this list plus Kris Bubic plus several promising arms that missed the top-ten cut. He’s already posted big league exit velocities. Evaluators are confident he’ll be a plus defender at short and remain a plus runner in his twenties. The primary question for the #2 overall pick in the 2019 draft is the hit tool, and if reports from the training site have any validity, he might be a little underrated in that area.
2. OF Erick Peña | 18 | NA | 2025
A 6’3” 180 lb wide receiver type athlete who seems likely to remain in centerfield, Peña will bring elite bat speed and athleticism to his first pro opportunity to generate a statline in 2021. He’s near the top of a group of buy-now dynasty talents who haven’t hit the stateside circuit. Perhaps you could acquire Jasson Dominguez or Robert Puason in a trade today, but I think you’re better off checking in on the Erick Peña shareholder in your league because the price could be very reasonable for a 2019 FYPD first-rounder. The Cubs are seeking to exploit precisely this pandemic loophole by trading Yu Darvish for three players who’ve yet to debut, and Peña presents you the opportunity to buy a ticket to that party without selling a top-five pitcher.
3. LHP Daniel Lynch | 24 | A+ | Early 2021
Listed at 6’6” 190 lbs, Lynch evokes memories of other string bean lefties and backs up the aesthetics with a dynamic arsenal in support of a high-90’s fastball. What his pitch mix looks like in 2021 might be something of a mystery as Lynch spent 2020 focused on developing a reportedly double-plus change-up. He probably only needs fastball, slider change but still has a cutter and curve in his repertoire. I’m eager to see which will work best against MLB bats and which offering he’ll lean into when the going gets tough. Lynch was likely ready for the big league jump this year and should have a chance to graduate (50+ MLB innings) in 2021.
4. LHP Asa Lacy | 21 | NCAA | 2022
Some lists will flip these two lefties. Lacy was utterly dominant in his abbreviated junior season at Texas A&M and deserves every accolade he receives. I was a little surprised to see Kansas City select him fourth overall this summer rather than banking the sliding positional value of Austin Martin, so General Manager Dayton Moore must really love what he sees in Lacy, a well-built power lefty (6’4” 215 lbs) with a plus-plus fastball-slider combo. Could probably compete in the majors out of spring but will likely spend the bulk of 2021 in the minors.
5. RHP Jackson Kowar | 24 | AA | 2021
A man in search of a breaking ball, Kowar made good use of the controlled setting at the training site, working tirelessly to supplement his excellent fastball-changeup combination with something he could employ to strike out right handed batters. Have to take any training-site talk with a grain of salt, but the word around the team has his new curve looking like a double-plus offering, which would give him three of those with an off-speed for each side of the plate. Sounds more like dreamland than in-game reality to me, but I’ll send an offer or two this winter just in case. If he can’t get that third weapon or access better in-game command than he’s ever shown, the floor is still back-end relief.
6. RHP Jonathan Bowlan | 24 | A+ | 2021
Bowlan is my favorite gap prospect here. I dunno what to call them yet. I guess you just say “sleepers” or values or something in the parlance of our times to refer to players the industry as a whole seems to be ignoring. I have no idea what Bowlan has to do to get some love. Dude threw a perfect game in 2019 and nobody noticed. That’s a lie. People noticed. But it didn’t change anyone’s opinion of him. And maybe it shouldn’t–that was High A after all, and Bowlan was just 1.2 years younger than his average competitor, and it’s not like prospect people think he’s a total zero. Pretty close to that, though, and I think it’s a case of velocity being sexier than command and competence. Bowlan checks in at 6’6” 262 lbs and looks every inch and pound of that on the mound. The reason he was allowed to finish that nine-inning perfecto–unheard of in today’s game–is that one of his key features is his ability to eat . . . innings. And strikes. And baseball bats. The 58th overall pick in 2018 out of Oklahoma, it’s not like Bowlan came from nowhere. In a lot of systems, he’d be the closest, best, most established and important pitching prospect for our game. In Kansas City, he gets a little lost in the stockpile despite having plus command of three big league quality offerings (fastball, slider, changeup).
7. OF Edward Olivares | 25 | MLB | 2020
Olivares is not prospect eligible by the wonky rona rules MLB is using, but with just 96 at bats on the back of his baseball card, he remains MiLB eligible in dynasty leagues, where he’s probably a must-own asset in the short term while he can be stored on the youth squad. His value beyond that depends on your league settings. If he doesn’t have a gig with something positive on paper by the time he clears 130 at bats, he might be droppable if that’s your limit. I just mean he’s not the kind of monster you have to hold if he’s costing you a useful spot on the MLB side. On the other hand, he stole 35 bases at AA in 2019, slashing .283/.349/.453 and hitting 18 home runs in 127 games. That would be a fantasy monster. His hit tool might not be ready, and as I’ve discussed, he might not have much time to burn in your league. Tough spot but very intriguing prospect the Royals acquired for a dominant month from Trevor Rosenthal. Good trade for both sides.
8. OF Khalil Lee | 22 | AA | 2022
The list takes a turn here. While Kansas City has its deepest system in many years, the top end is very different than the bottom in part because the organization tends to target plus athletes who might need a long time to maximize their talent. Lee has taken tremendously well to plate patience and base-stealing, but his swing mechanics and contact skills need work and reps. He’s likely to get these reps at the big league level soon, where he could be a stolen base boon in OBP leagues with little to offer in standard 5×5 for his first few seasons.
9. OF Nick Heath | 27 | MLB | 2020
While he’s atypical as a prospect, I think it would be unwise to overlook Heath in dynasty leagues. He swiped 60 bases across AA and AAA in 2019 and can be moved between MiLB and MLB spots for cheap stolen bases anytime he’s in the lineup. The upside over a hot month or so is tremendous. Kind of a Myles-Straw-shaped piece for our game. Wouldn’t be surprised if he’s started in a lot of leagues at times next year.
10. OF Brewer Hicklen | 25 | A+ | 2022
Like a lot of names on the list, Hicklen is a plus-plus athlete who’s baseball skills are a little behind his age-to-level profile. In 2019, Hicklen stole 39 bases and hit 14 home runs across 125 games at High A. Most importantly, he carried a .363 on base percentage and has been a positive in that realm every step of the way. Looks more like a football player than a typical hitter because he was a football player in college. Might not be able to hit high-minors spin. Might wind up a huge fantasy asset.
Thanks for reading!
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