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!

I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.

 
  1. Steve says:
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    Hey Itch, great read – thanks! As a Pad’s fan, I forgot about Olivares, so that was a fun trip down memory lane! Do you remember when KC signed 16 y/o Kaito Yuki? Any news on him? If so where would he land…25-30?

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Thanks Steve!

      I do remember the Kaito signing! Very unique situation but I think you’re in the right range.

  2. goodfold2 says:
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    still behind but finished with PL’s top 500 dynasty (148 not owned prior to my draft starting). after listing them now going over your team lists at same time with PL’s team lists (where possible as they are at 13 teams done compared to your 23+). first 3 picks went: tork, a.martin, kim. so far i’ve found your vogel (LAD), and antone (they must be using those silly ass rona prosp rules on theirs as he’s not in their top 500 nor their CIN list) that i gotta find spots somewhere in my overall list. i’m sure i’ll find more (albeit it’s also often seen that your top 10’s by team are just 100% owned too in some cases).

    for this 30 teamer (40 prospect slots max)
    i have these prospects up (could be put down):
    a.tejeda, adell, e.rios (the latter 2 can only barely be put down, 123/124 at bats)

    these stashed in 40 max prospect slots (and after all my years in league i’m drafting 6th in all 6 rounds)
    MI: bracho, w.perez, preciado, a.rondon, k.smith (not mallrats/clerks, the TOR one), vientos (CI)
    CI: denton, lavalley, w.craig, padlo, d.ellis
    OF: kirilloff, c.brannen, fraley, v.garcia, p.gonzalez (TEX), victor to the 2nd mesa (good lord that was an awful 1.20 or so pick a few years ago, not as bad as kirilloff over acuna right after acuna blew up but i wasn’t yet finding sites that had as early as january top dynasty lists though, i could find kirillof high for 1st year drafted rankings, but acuna’s movement up overall hadn’t been shown relative to those in one list back then at least where i knew to go), a.pages, t.ornelas, trammell, g.whitley (another bad first round pick)

    P: diplan, c.hernandez (KC), j.soriano, kochanowitz, kilome, j.guzman, c.rodriguez, a.smith (SD), m.sauer, sherfy, w.crowe, m.thompson (WSOX)

    as far as early picks i went over the most recently 1st year guys you had (june 21st):
    – you are lower than PL on these:
    m.meyer (barely)
    kjerstad (their 33rd overall, your 11th 1st year)
    a.hendrick (their 52nd overall, 18th yours)
    p.crow-arm (their overall 75th, your 15th)
    e.hancock (their 76th overall, your 17th)

    – guys you are a lot higher on than them:
    detmers (their 170th overall, your 13th)
    i.greene (their 182nd overall, your 7th)
    sabato (149th them, 16th you)
    j.walker (192nd them, 12th you)
    c.martin (their 373rd, your 14th)
    vogel (not even in top 500, your 19th, this one i need to find out to put somewhere)

    at 6th isn’t where the big questions start (unless just NEVER going pitcher is a thing i would stick with, usually the top pitchers are all gone for me by 17th-22nd). them not even having vogel top 500 though, that’s odd. it’s also possible your june 21st list has outdated parts, but i’m guessing not much, if any.

    2. where would you put in the international signings like kim? he went 1.3 but seeing about anybody else. and i doubt you’d put him 3rd in 1st year stuff for sure.

    3. rough guesses on where guys they had completely missing like antone (he might be quite high as he was your 4th at CIN), vogel, would even go in a top 500 type list? i’ll have more of those as i go down the teams.

    it appears my first pick in 3 picks i might have a chance at: n-gonz (maybe), lacy, veen (probably not, if he is seems too good to pass on, no matter how weak i am in pitching prospects and strongest in OF ones), meyer (yr lower on than them, lacy higher), hendrick (tools read out better than kjerkstad’s over there). this pick probably not as interesting as later ones though.

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Hi, goodfold2,

      I’d be hoping for Nick Gonzalez at six, but it sounds like you’ve got a few directions in mind already. I agree I’d want Veen if not Gonzo. Really hoping for a big structural change there.

      I think Wilman Diaz is a viable option there too because I doubt you get another shot at him in the 2nd. I wonder if you could package your 2nd with something else to jump up around 15 and take Diaz or Colmanarez?

      If not we’re looking at pick 36, 66, 96 etc.

      I also like Pedro Pineda there at 36 and Shalin Polanco at 66.

      2. Third seems about right for Kim. Tork and Gonzo are in their own tier for me, then Martin and Veen, I think, but if you’re in contention now, it makes fine sense to take a shot on Kim as high as #2. I bet he’ll go first in several leagues. Really wish Gonzalez had landed anywhere other than Pittsburgh, but at least that’s keeping him somewhat attainable.

      3. Antone is exactly the kind of the chamber misses and then never takes time to correct. He’s been old for level for a long time and has seen his stuff steadily improve then launch under the new development group. Should be a top 100 type right now, easily.

      I dunno how anyone misses on Vogel, an overslot speed demon with plus centerfield defense, a sweet swing and present gap power developing in arguably baseball’s best system. Guess I might be early for our game given the long wait on any high school bat, but he’ll be incredibly tough to acquire via trade if he has a decent start to his pro career.

      • goodfold2 says:
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        ok, i’m assuming all those names i’ve never heard of once
        w.diaz, polanco, colmanarez, pineda (not one of them made PL’s top 500 which was made in oct) were all signed since oct and would be in your team lists (i gotta get the moving on on for those then quick).

        my turn now and these went:
        Yoelqui Cespedes OF (White Sox) (him also not on their top 500, lacy 47th)
        Asa Lacy SP (Royals)

        they also don’t have a 1st year player draft rankings, as i’m sure all those would be in that somewhere. good to have some clue on them for now and where antone should go, clearly i got the n-gonz or veen here. first thing up, searching here for all those names then inputting to master list.

        • goodfold2 says:
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          having never had a pick like this i probably want to go with just best player available here rather than value of picks (but the top players obv fall off quick). i got these trade offers i’m likely to not do:
          1. my 1.6 for 1.25 and next year likely bad 2nd
          2. my 1.6 for 1.7 and next year 5th (these 5ths have little value but if n.gonz wasn’t here i’d bet you’d say this is fine as i’d still get veen anyway)
          3. my 1.6 for 2.25 and next year 2nd (same team as in 1 so late in both rounds)

          it’s a VERY good thing you mentioned those 4 names (and where kim might go) as none of those 4 are searchable even here for anything about them or even what team they are on (i’m finding the latter now and seeing if any of PL’s team lists have any of them). also should cespedes be going 1.5 anywhere? it appears finding names like this is a far more important job than worrying where certain guys rank next to each other in general from them to you.

          • goodfold2 says:
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            sorry trade 3 is 2.25 and bad 1st rounder. so pretty much same thing as trade 1 it’s just which year i get the 1st back.

            • goodfold2 says:
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              our rule is you can draft whoever you want, if they aren’t signed by MLB’s 1st day this year you get duplicate spot of where you drafted that player in the next year (but player goes back) so 1.7 is 1.7a next year (actually you lose 1 draft slot + a year later)

              some others i have no idea (not missing these entirely now, looking up 1st year player rankings specifically all over, found one rank similar to yours that has w.diaz 14th, pineda 40th at prospects 365
              Cristian Hernandez (CUBS? 10th here)
              Carlos Colmenarez (TB? 13th)
              Pedro Leon (49th there)
              cespedes’s brother (51st over there so psycho high here)
              Carson Montgomery (54th)
              Mario Zabala (60)
              almost everybody besides these on that 1st year list are in PL’s top 500, some after here aren’t. and i found/remembered the signing day moved to jan 15th, so soon.

              • goodfold2 says:
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                colmenarez i see where you put him already, most are putting hernandez/colmenarez/diaz not far from each other on the top end 3 and having gone into draft with roughly 17 names in top 100 overall i have an idea where to stash them along with antone (likely to get one of these at 2.6).

                • goodfold2 says:
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                  went n-gonz, had a guy trying to give me 2.7 and a 2022 1st (his team is far better and should get top 8 at worst this year) late and 2nd late and 2.7 this year. notice while that trade is nice i’d never get a topish guy out of it (i never once have had a chance at ANY top 5 1st year guy).
                  i’d have gotten around
                  1.22 (2022)
                  2.22 (2022)
                  2.7 now
                  while losing the 1.6 now. man it’s weird for a value guy (me) to pass that up though.

                  • goodfold2 says:
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                    antone just went to the same guy that was trying to give me a haul to get my 1.6 (he entered draft with only 1.7 and 2.7). he gave away 1st and 2nd and 5th in 2022 for 1.24 then went antone. all of those j2 guys are still around here and these pitchers (i badly need pitchers too, if not for the level of hitter at 1.6 i probably should’ve went hancock (went at 1.7)): cavalli, burns, b.miller, cecconi, wilcox. some others still out there too: e.duran, paredes (HOU P), a.vizcaino (NYY), beeter, r.dominguez (NYM).

                    all the top this year catchers still currently out there too but i’d expect them gone soon (wells, soderstrom, bailey, dingler). but i’ve mostly sworn off catcher prospect investments as so many turn into dust and/or don’t really get jobs and they take a long time and there are always decent enough catchers for cheap in FA (sometimes even league min cost waivers).

                    • goodfold2 says:
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                      where would you stick colas (he was drafted last year in the 6th round but with no signing just got drafted at 1.15). w.diaz and c.hernandez just went at 1.29-1.30 too.

                    • goodfold2 says:
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                      holy crap in taking 4ish hours to decide between cecconi/j.jones (PIT) (likely best not only overall PL top 500 pitchers left but best 1st year guys) i’m just now noticing that bowlan isn’t owned, which is crazy, i figured all the KC pitching guys were already. bowlan also didn’t make PL’s top 500 overall, like t.antone (they’d be using goofy MLB rules for qualification likely on him though)

                    • The Itch

                      The Itch says:
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                      Dang almost got Diaz there.

                      Not big into Colas, tbh.

                      I’m kinda shocked Bowlan isn’t on the 500. Probably right on Antone w the eligibility wonk, but you never know, once the prospect has decided a guy doesn’t much matter, it rarely doubles back to include him.

                      Sorry I think I missed the window to chime in on pick 2 here. How’d it go?

                      You definitely made the right call on Gonzales. He shouldn’t be available there, more like a top 2 pick type talent, but I get that the Pitt piece plus the New Mex college piece creates that opportunity.

  3. Tim Anderson Project says:
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    Yo Itch

    E.Pena for A. Benintendi in a deep dynasty league?

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Wow–tough one for me. Depends a bit on your build / contention cycle but in a start-up setting, I’ll take Pena for sure.

  4. Nice article covering the Royals farm boys. We’ve discussed Witt before and definitely belongs at the top. Depending on his progress (and covid situation) think he might get the call in Sept, but being only 20 yrs old we’ll see. 2023 ETA just seems too far away for this kid, as he will make a strong push. I predict he’ll be a valuable roto-pick in 2022. Thanks Itchy!

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Thanks, Smitty!

      I can see that, sure. He’ll probably open in the Midwest League, might get bumped to A+ if he’s good there then begin 2022 in AA if he’s good at High A.

      It’s just that everything has to go right for him to make himself an option next season.

  5. Jimmy says:
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    Who would you keep Jose Garcia-or Tyler Freeman? With Brayan Rochcchio and Gabriel Arias in The Cleveland system does Freeman get moved? Thanks for the great insight!!

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      This surprises me a little, but I’m going with Freeman at the moment.

  6. Harley Earl says:
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    Itch!!!!!!

    Man, I wish all this info on Pena hadn’t gotten out over the last 18 months. Dude wasn’t available in our draft last year but would have been a top 10 pick. He’ll go in the first five picks this year which means I’ve got no chance at getting him with my pick at #11. Every year it seems I’m missing out on elite prospects because of draft position. Sucks!

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Sorry to hear that, Harley.

      I had him in this same 2-spot on last year’s list published Jan 8 2020.

      Also ranked him 56th overall in the Top 75 list that published Oct 2 2019.

      • Harley Earl says:
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        Oh, I know you had him highly ranked. And I would have drafted him had he actually been in Yahoo’s player pool at the time of our draft. But he wasn’t added to the Yahoo player pool for a month or two later and so he was off limits until this year. Now he’ll be a top 5 pick. It just sucks because it seems like there are almost no secrets any more.

        Somehow I did manage to draft Robert Pauson late last year. Couldn’t believe he slipped to me but there was very very little information on him going into the draft. Hopefully, he turns out to be what the A’s think they’ve got.

        • goodfold2 says:
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          it wasn’t draft position that screws people here, it’s yahoo’s lack of prospects in system while also not having a separate list system for guys not in their system in leagues to dodge that crap. fantrax wipes that out or finding a comish willing to work around yahoo’s ineptitude.

        • The Itch

          The Itch says:
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          Sounds like me w cards a little bit.

          Players never have their first chrome on the market when I’m looking to buy.

          In Bowman’s case, they’ve just gotten better at juicing the hype and not printing a player too soon for people to be in on him. No secrets indeed. In Yahoo’s case, probably nobody gets paid to care.

          • goodfold2 says:
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            yeah they very clearly don’t have any incentives to give a shit over there, people don’t get added for 3+ years sometimes, meanwhile in their draft year mize/bart had to be added to system for some reason 2 months after the draft (aug) while nobody else in that draft class was till the next preseason (at earliest). we had to make up the “mize/bart” rule for that exact instance of that shit (so people can’t just willy nilly add people in the same season they were added to system). guys that are already IN the system exit it for no reason then magically reappear later but you never know when or why that might happen.

            • goodfold2 says:
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              sorry, the issue on mize/bart isn’t that they just got added to the system, it’s that they started that year not in the system then added right when drafted. if a prospect list work around was already in place and they had been drafted in real life already they could’ve been added in name before that (which is what you have to do already with guys like pena in yahoo, they added him at least 2 years late)

  7. Moon Shots says:
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    Good stuff always Mr. Itch.

    Was curious for your opinion on this one in 30-team Dynasty:

    I send:
    Brandon Crawford
    Braden Shewmake

    I get:
    Isaiah Greene
    Jordan Walker

    Im very much in rebuild, stockpile prospects mode. Thanks senor!

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      What up, Moon Shots!?

      Sorry if I didn’t get to this in time. I like that deal a lot for your side.

  8. Lloyd “Pretty Bird” Christmas says:
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    Itch, you really are a gentleman & a scholar due to all of the work you’ve done here. I’ve been taking your outside the box thinking on young prospects who you “pick to click” (CWS Hawk Harrelson reference), before all the other outlets catch on. When the other outlets finally do catch on & promote these youngins as “the next big thing,” their values skyrocket, & that inflation of player value I use as trade bait.

    That said, I’d like to pick your brain on how u rank these 3 SP’s…

    *** Joey Cantillo | Jonathan Bowlan | Miguel Yajure ***

    * I’ve rostered Yajure since mid-2019 b/c of pristine command & control, well & b/c he’s basically dominated since TJ. So, do I…

    – Keep Yajure & pickup Bowlan?
    – Keep Yajure & pickup Cantillo?
    – Drop Yajure to pickup both Cantillo & Bowlan?

    (* 16-team, 18-MILB spots / I currently have 1 MILB spot open)

    Thanks in advance good sir, & stay classy as always!

    • Lloyd “Pretty Bird” Christmas says:
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      And if you had to bet on the winner of a “No Holds Barred” tag-team cage match…who you got?

      Lloyd Christmas & Harry
      vs.
      Derek Zoolander & Hansel

      • The Itch

        The Itch says:
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        Thank you for the super kind words, Lloyd!!

        That’s exactly my intended lane!! As a one man operation, I have the ability to be a few steps ahead of the camel committees and groupthinkers. Glad it’s benefiting your rosters!

        I’m picking Christmas and Harry, btw. Those dudes are dangerous.

        Tough spot on the arms as I love all three and would like to find a way to have them all. I’m not sure how to rank them because I think they’re very close. I’ll be synthesizing and making that call more definitively soon when I do the Top 100 and the omnibus, but for now I’ll go Cantillo, Yajure, and Bowlan in that order. Close to a coin flip though with the tie breaks going to Cleveland, LHP and spin axis on Cantillo’s 4-seamer, and the fact that Yajure has already seen the show.

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