In 2018, Royals’ General Manager Dayton Moore faced a draft that could define his organization’s decade. The pressure was on as he’d gained picks from the free agent core exodus, and the organization was staring into the abyss.
Premium college pitching was falling.
It didn’t seem to fit with Kansas City’s positional needs.
But Moore leaned in, took what fell, and planted a wave of pitching talent that has succeeded so far. In Singer, Kowar, Lynch, Bowlan and Bubic, Moore might’ve scored a starting rotation in a day. Might’ve drafted the best pitching class in the club’s history.
Kansas City’s best prospects are mostly these recent additions that quickly leapt the names we’ve been accustomed to seeing on this list. Nick Pratto was the 14th overall pick in 2017, but he’s a first baseman who hit .197 in High A. He was young for the level, but I’m not pounding the table for a decent hit, decent power first baseman who hasn’t hit as a professional. Seuly Matias was somehow even worse, striking out 44.3 percent of the time while hitting .148 and slugging .307. They might both be decent free agent adds at the moment, but you can’t trade for them or trade them away.
For our game, the tacit appeal of Kansas City prospects remains Dayton Moore’s steadfast commitment to his guys. When/if they reach the majors, they will get a lot of opportunities to fail. Whit Merrifield wasn’t an accident to Moore. Drafted in 2010, Merrifield spent seven seasons in the organization before hitting two home runs and stealing eight bases in 81 games with a .323 on-base percentage as a rookie. Not a loud debut for a 27-year-old rookie. But then Whit got steady playing time in 2017 and went nuts: 19 HR 34 SB.
It pays to keep an eye on their upper minors, is all I’m saying, and their slow-burn youngsters. From Mondesi to Merrifield to Dozier to whoever might step forward in 2020, Kansas City has been a sneaky source for value these past few years. I’m worried about the role Ned Yost played in these Soler-ish breakouts. I’m just recklessly speculating from a distance here, but Yost seems like a major dude who exudes positive energy, while Matheny seems to prefer a flexed rectum lifestyle. Could be he’s loosened up some. Could be he was already loose, and my perspective is too distant to have any accuracy.
Player | Age on 5/1/2020 | Highest Level Played | ETA
1. SS Bobby Witt Jr. | 19 | R | 2024
Though he’s been on the prospect radar since his early teeny bopper days, the picture of who Bobby Witt Jr. will be as a pro is still pretty unclear. He’s been a bit old for his competition, and he’s got a little more swing and miss than you love to see in a premium prospect who’s a few months from being 20 in rookie ball. His bat and foot speed are elite—should be a five-tool Star if it all comes together.
2. OF Erick Peña | 17 | R | 2024
Speaking of bat speeding into the unknown, Erick Peña is flying up lists as the echo chamber ramps up toward Meseeks season. We’ve only got a few videos and the $3.9 million price tag to build from, but I’m excited. The power is all-fields and comes pretty easily already.
3. LHP Daniel Lynch | 23 | A+ | Early 2021
4. RHP Jackson Kowar | 23 | AA | Mid 2020
5. RHP Brady Singer | 23 | AA | Mid 2020
Could have these in any sequence.
Daniel Lynch has big helium coming off the Arizona Fall League, pumping high nineties heat in short bursts in front of the fantasy taste-makers.
Jackson Kowar is least loved of the trio in terms of perceived value. I’d recommend sending out some trade feelers. His command of a devastating changeup and solid curveball ticked up in 2019. Could be looking at an exciting season that ends with useful big league innings.
That last sentence applies to Brady Singer as well. Once in the conversation with Casey Mize for top overall pick, Singer fell to pick 18 after an up-and-down college stretch but came out strong as a pro and remains a low-floor, decent-topside arm with a ground ball profile.
6. RHP Jonathan Bowlan | 23 | A+ | Early 2021
7. LHP Kris Bubic | 22 | A+ | Early 2021
8. RHP Carlos Hernandez | 23 | A | Mid 2021
Jonathan Bowlan’s probably a free agent in most leagues, but I’m a big believer. He’s 6’6” 260 with a smooth downhill delivery that portends durability. His velocity has been climbing little by little since getting picked in the 2nd round of 2018’s draft, and I think he’s a sleeper for big league innings this year.
I’m a little lower on Kris Bubic than some because he’s herky-jerky in his delivery and pitches off his change up. Looks like it could work in relief, but I’m skeptical of his sustainability.
You know 6’4” Carlos Hernandez is a dude the first time you see him. A prototype frontline arm, his price is obscured by a weird path to the present, but he’s here now, he was good when healthy, and he’ll climb lists in 2020.
9. OF Khalil Lee | 21 | AA | Early 2021
10. OF Brewer Hicklen | 24 | A+ | Late 2021
Got some speed here on the way out. Khalil Lee and Brewer Hicklen have physical gifts that will buy them time to develop, which is great because as it stands neither figures to make enough contact to access their speed and power. If either hits, he’ll be a key piece in fantasy. I prefer to track these types in the minors and move fast if they get hot, but that’s not always an option, and both are decent enough uses of a roster spot, as are OF Kyle Isbel, OF Darryl Collins, SS Brady McConnell and LHP Daniel Tillo.