November 22, 2013
Prospects Will Break Your Heart
Kansas City Royals Top 10 Prospects
The Top Ten
1. Yordano Ventura
What Happened in 2013: Ventura logged a career high in innings pitched—spanning three levels—and concluded his impressive run with three starts in the majors.
Strengths: Elite arm speed; fastball sits mid-upper 90s; can hit triple digits deep into games; can manipulate the movement; gets cutting action at lower velo; curveball is plus pitch; hard breaker with tight rotation and excellent depth; changeup could end up another well-above-average pitch; offers deception from FB and good action.
Weaknesses: Slight build; concerns about workload ability; tendency to lose command by overthrowing; changeup can get too firm; requires more refinement than other offerings; curveball plays down when FB command is loose.
Overall Future Potential: 7; no. 2 starter
Realistic Role: High 6; no. 3 starter
Risk Factor/Injury History: Low risk; achieved major-league level; ready for extended look.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: We already got a sneak peak at his heat in September, but with the inside track to a rotation spot on Opening Day, Ventura is ready to make a fantasy impact. The immediate future may not feature the type of strikeout numbers you’d expect long term, but he is still the type of pitcher to take a shot with at the back end of your rotation in 2014. Beyond that, he has the potential to be a full four-category contributor if he can handle the workload.
The Year Ahead: Ventura has been throwing gas since he could walk, but the progression of his secondary arsenal has turned him from a future relief prospect to a frontline arm that can pitch atop a major-league rotation. The body is slight and short, and normally I’d be quick to put him into a late-innings box. But Ventura can hold velocity like a workhorse, gaining strength as he goes along, not losing it. I do have some concerns about long-term workload and what 200 innings might do to the stuff, but it’s hard to ignore the electricity in his arm and the potential that creates. I wouldn’t be shocked if Ventura takes another step forward in 2014, and pitches his way into Rookie of the Year discussions.
Major league ETA: Debuted in 2013
2. Raul Mondesi
What Happened in 2013: I took a calculated risk by ranking Mondesi third in the system last season and 58th overall, as he was still an unknown commodity to most fans and prognosticators alike. He rewarded our belief in his ability by jumping to a full-season league and holding his own despite being 17 years old for a healthy chunk of the season.
Strengths: Advanced talent; shows high-impact skills on all sides of the ball; slick actions on defense; plus glove potential with more repetition; plus arm, capable of all the throws; instincts could push tools up; plus run; good bat-to-ball ability from both sides of the plate; could develop average power down the line.
Weaknesses: Needs to learn to slow the game down; can play fast, rush his actions and throws in the field; overly aggressive at the plate; susceptible to secondary stuff; power potential is questionable.
Overall Future Potential: High 6; first-division/all-star
Realistic Role: 5; major-league regular
Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; 18 years old; yet to play in high minors
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The fantasy upside of Mondesi is overshadowed by the real-life impact he can have on the Royals. If he doesn’t develop even average power, we’re talking more about a 10-homer, 20-steal threat with the ability to post a helpful batting average. That’s not a fantasy stud, but at shortstop, it’s still a back of the top 10 guy.
The Year Ahead: Mondesi is a special talent, a gifted defender at a premium position with speed and a quick stroke to the ball from both sides of the plate. He is unrefined and eager in his game, but he has a chance to develop into an impact talent at the highest level. The developmental process will present setbacks and failures along the way, and 2014 might look similar to 2013 on the stat sheet, but Mondesi’s ceiling is worth the patience.
Major league ETA: 2016
3. Kyle Zimmer
What Happened in 2013: In his first full season of professional ball, Zimmer made 22 starts across two levels before getting shut down in August with tightness in his right shoulder.
Strengths: Clean delivery; easy and repeatable; excellent arm strength; fastball can work 92-97; touching as high as 99 in short bursts; some arm-side life; curveball is big boy pitch; multiple looks; can throw the pitch for strikes with heavy vertical action or show more two-plane break and drop it out of the zone; slider at 85-88 with short break and late tilt; future plus offering; can turn over changeup with some sink and fade; very good command profile.
Weaknesses: Delivery offers little deception; hitters seem to pick up the ball early; changeup is fringe-average (present); below-average command of the offering; can cut off his extension and cut the ball back into left-handers.
Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 2/3 starter
Realistic Role: High 5; no. 3 starter
Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; minor injury concerns (tightness in right shoulder); limited Double-A exposure.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: With Zimmer, it’s all about the strikeouts. His potential plus-plus curve, when combined with the rest of his arsenal, can lead to very strong strikeout totals. He’s one of fewer than 10 starting pitchers in the minors who projects as a potential impact player in strikeouts (think 200-plus if he is who we think he is). Kauffman Stadium is also a nice match for him, as he could be prone to the long ball.
The Year Ahead: Zimmer is a polished arm with high-end stuff, and in a lighter system, would be the marquee name on the farm. The fastball is an easy plus offering, working low-to-mid-90s as a starter and touching higher when he needs to go get it. The curveball is one of the better hammers in the minors, a plus pitch that some already have plus-plus grades on. He can drop it for strikes or for chase, and with a slider also in the arsenal, Zimmer has a potent assortment of secondary stuff to miss barrels and force weak contact. He’s going to reach the major-league level in 2014, and should develop into rotation horse as a floor and an impact no. 2 starter if everything falls into place.
Major league ETA: Late 2014
4. Miguel Almonte
What Happened in 2013: In his full-season debut, Almonte took another step forward on the field, missing a bat an inning thanks to his potent FB/CH combo.
Strengths: Loose, easy arm; great action; delivery is repeatable; fastball works 92-96; can touch higher; good arm-side movement; changeup is money pitch; excellent deception in the arm and plus-plus action; effective against both LH/RH; shows multiple breaking balls; curve can flash above-average; strike-throwing ability.
Weaknesses: More control than command; can live loose in the zone; tendency to come across his body in the delivery and struggles to hit arm-side spots; both breaking balls are inconsistent; CB has best chance to play to average.
Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter
Realistic Role: 5; no. 4/5 starter
Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; yet to pitch in upper minors
Bret Sayre’ Fantasy Take: Another pitcher who could put up strong strikeout numbers, Almonte also could be a very strong contributor in WHIP. From June 1st to the end of the season, he had 90 strikeouts versus just 16 walks in 86 1/3 innings—and limiting walks like that will also net him more wins, as he’ll be able to pitch deeper into games at the major-league level.
The Year Ahead: Almonte is going to move onto the pitcher-friendly confines of High-A Wilmington, and he’s probably going to shove it with excellent results. His fastball is a plus offering, his changeup is well above average, and his ability to throw strikes should allow him to produce statistical results that will elevate his prospect status. The real test will come in Double-A, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he gets promoted to that level at some point during the summer. His breaking ball (whichever one steps forward) needs improvement, and the control needs to continue developing into command, but this is a very legit arm with a high ceiling.
Major league ETA: Late 2015
5. Sean Manaea
What Happened in 2013: Manaea was a legit 1:1 candidate coming into the spring, but injures (hip/shoulder) and inconsistency allowed him to the fall to the 34th pick, where the Royals popped and signed him for $3.55 million.
Strengths: Big, athletic body; impressive arm strength; from ¾ slot, fastball can work 92-96; touch 97; good movement; arm-side run and some sink; slider can flash well above-average potential; low 80s with sharp tilt; changeup could be high-impact pitch; excellent deception and late action; good command profile.
Weaknesses: Inconsistent fastball velocity reports this spring; abnormal for him but worth noting; slider can get slurvy and lose effectiveness; changeup is promising offering but hasn’t been a heavily featured player in arsenal; can get a little deliberate in the delivery.
Overall Future Potential: High 6; no. 2 starter
Realistic Role: 6; no. 3 starter
Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; no professional record; injury concerns
Bret Sayre's Fantasy Take: Manaea's fantasy upside is intense and higher than any of the other arms on this list--even Kyle Zimmer. The raw tools are there for him to be a full four-category contributor and top-20 fantasy starter. He's a great chance to take in dynasty drafts if you're looking for a potentially fast riser in value--just don't ignore the risks.
The Year Ahead: If healthy, Manaea is a monster, a left-handed power arm with easy plus velocity, good movement, sharp slider, and the foundation of a very good changeup. Add athleticism and pitchability into the mix, and you can see why several teams had Manaea ranked as the top arm in the 2013 class. He will need to prove he is both healthy and effective, but it’s not going to take the soon-to-be 22-year-old long to shoot up prospect lists and emerge as one of the top arms in the minors.
Major league ETA: 2015
6. Hunter Dozier
What Happened in 2013: A first-round talent but a surprise pick at no. 8 overall, Dozier has been saddled with the burden of enhanced expectations as a result.
Strengths: Baseball skills; good overall approach to the game; has a plan at the plate and understands the strike zone; has good leverage in the swing and projects to hit for solid-avg to plus power; arm is strong; can make routine plays up the middle; athletic with solid run.
Weaknesses: Lacks impact tools; swing can get hitchy and long; velocity concerns; lacks ideal range for shortstop; third base is likely long-term defensive home; more polish than projection.
Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player
Realistic Role: 5; major-league regular
Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; limited professional experience; shows baseball skills.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The talk of Dozier being a reach in the June draft could help you nab him later than he should go in your dynasty league drafts this year. The college standout brings a strong overall fantasy profile to the table, but more in the Kyle Seager vein than someone who will be a top-five option at the position. Dozier also could be an even stronger value in points leagues, where his potentially strong strikeout and walk rates can shine.
The Year Ahead: Dozier is a baseball player, with game skills and good instincts. The problem with the skill set is impact, which is an expectation built in to his lofty draft status. While Dozier is unlikely to develop into a star or a high-impact player, he has the tools to become a solid major-league regular, one with a good approach, good pop from the right side, and the defensive chops to play a solid third base. That’s not a Longoria-esque profile, and perhaps you want a little more out of a top 10 selection, but it’s hard to find fault in the outcome if the Royals are able to develop a major-league player out of the deal, especially given the financial flexibility his signing offered which allowed the team to sign Sean Manaea.
Major league ETA: 2016
7. Jorge Bonifacio
What Happened in 2013: Bonifacio hit his way to Double-A, after a hamate injury threatened to derail his breakout campaign.
Strengths: Big raw strength; all-fields power potential; brings a plan to the plate; not just a power hacker; arm in right field is very strong; receives some plus-plus grades; runs well for size (average); hit tool should allow power to play.
Weaknesses: Big power has yet to show up in game action; hamate injury didn’t help; swing is compact; more linear than loft necessary for over-the-fence power; body is high maintenance; questions about hit tool against higher level pitching.
Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player
Realistic Role: Low-5; second division player
Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; limited Double-A experience
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The fact that Bonifacio could be the type of hitter to smack 25 bombs in a season might still be hidden on his stat page, as he’s never hit more than 10 in his minor-league career. This year may be no different, as hamate bone fractures can sap power for an extended period of time. If he starts off slow in 2014, there might never be a better time to acquire him in a trade.
The Year Ahead: Bonifacio can hit, but it remains to be seen what type of hitter he will develop into. Sources disagree on offensive outcome, as some see the power coming but at the expense of contact—a potential .260 type with 20-plus bombs—while others see a more complete hitter, one where the power flows from the hit tool without compromising contact. It’s a right field profile and a solid-average one, with the arm being a weapon, but the ceiling is dependent on the power showing up, and that is still debatable heading into the 2014 season. This year should tell us a lot about the player Bonifacio will develop into, either pushing him up this list or leaving us with more questions than answers.
Major league ETA: Late 2014
8. Bubba Starling
What Happened in 2013: A disappointing first half of the season gave way to a promising second half, as Starling started to show some of the impact flash that made him a high first-round pick back in 2011.
Strengths: Plus-plus athlete; potential for loud tools; 7 run; 6 glove in center; arm is a weapon (7); power potential is easy plus; true impact ceiling.
Weaknesses: Inconsistency at the plate; needs to find rhythm in his swing; approach needs a lot of work; pitch recognition and reaction issues; hit tool is well below average; could damage power potential; long way to go.
Overall Future Potential: High 6; first-division/all-star player
Realistic Role: High 4; below-average major leaguer/bench outfielder
Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; long developmental process
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: There are still plenty of reasons why Starling is worth owning in fantasy leagues, but the 25-homer, 25-steal upside is his meal ticket. Even with all his warts, Starling still possesses the highest fantasy ceiling of any prospect in this farm system.
The Year Ahead: Starling has the tools to develop into an all-star, a plus defender at a premium position, with big power potential and well above-average speed. That’s a monster player. But the overall bat-to-ball ability is suspect, and the culprit might be his pitch recognition skills, which could end up limiting his overall potential at the plate. Even if he’s a .260 hitter (~5 hit), his overall attributes would make him a very valuable major leaguer. But several sources are in agreement with me that his hit tool is likely to play well below average and will limit his power from impacting games. Any developmental step forward for Starling is a step toward stardom, and I will gladly admit I was wrong about his evaluation if he starts to show signs of a more projectable hit tool.
Major league ETA: 2016
9. Jason Adam
What Happened in 2013: Slow and steady, Adam moved up to the Double-A level, made 26 starts, logged 144 innings, took developmental steps forward that didn’t show up on the stat sheet.
Strengths: Big, durable frame; arm works well; gets great extension; fastball can work 90-95; good sink; pitches off the fastball; curveball flashes plus; upper-70s with tight rotation and depth; changeup will play above average at times; good sink; pitchability.
Weaknesses: Delivery can get segmented; slows down the body; offerings can be easy to pick up; fastball floats between average and plus; secondary arsenal lacks a plus pitch; still refining command.
Overall Future Potential: 5; no. 4 starter
Realistic Role: Low 5; no. 5 starter/long reliever
Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; mature arm; 26 starts at Double-A level
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Adam’s fantasy relevance relies more on floor than ceiling, as he does not project to have a strong impact on any of the pitching categories. In deeper leagues, Adam is a nice value because he’s likely to have a major-league future as a starter, and he can miss enough bats to matter.
The Year Ahead: Adam has the stuff and the body to develop into a major-league average workhorse, the type of pitcher that can give you 200 innings of solid but not spectacular performance. He will most likely end up with three 55 pitches (20/80), and a good feel for strike throwing, giving him the tools to find success but a small margin for error at the highest level. His delivery still needs work and the secondary arsenal needs more consistency, but after another season in the upper minors, Adam will be ready to compete for a rotation spot in 2015.
Major league ETA: Late 2014
10. Orlando Calixte
What Happened in 2013: Calixte was pushed to the Double-A level, and he struggled against quality pitching, but the tools are still present to develop into a solid-average major-league regular.
Strengths: Plus raw power; has some bat-to-ball ability; arm is plus; glove is at least average at shortstop; range is average.
Weaknesses: Plate discipline needs work; can get overly aggressive; hit tool profiles as below average; defensive profile might be a better fit for third base; game power might play below projection.
Overall Future Potential: 5; major-league regular
Realistic Role: High 4; utility player
Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; struggled in first pass at Double-A
Prospects on the Rise:
2. OF Daniel Rockett: A ninth-round pick in 2013, Rockett has the bat to move quickly and the defensive versatility to offer value at all three spots. As an older prospect, he will be pushed aggressively and will have to perform to move up the ranks, but several sources were high on his bat and put better grades on his glove in center than some of his amateur reports suggested.
3. OF Elier Hernandez: Strong case for inclusion in the top 10, Hernandez has both tools and instincts for the game, a promising combination to find in a young player. It’s a corner outfield profile but plenty of raw power to dream and a good overall feel for hitting. He’s could be in the top five in this system at this time next season.
Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2014)
2. IF Christian Colon: Ignore the obvious narrative about Colon—that the fourth overall pick in the draft would end up a fringy utility option—and focus on what he might end up bringing to the table at the highest level. It’s not an impact profile, but with good baseball skills and enough stick to force a pitcher to work, Colon has a chance to develop into a productive player for the Royals, most likely in a utility role but there is always a chance he rises to the challenge and becomes a viable option at second base.
3. LHP Donnie Joseph: The 26-year-old lefty can miss bats, and that alone is reason to be optimistic about his contribution to the 25-man roster in 2014. On the back of his potent FB/SL combo, Joseph missed 84 bats in only 55 innings at the Triple-A level in 2013, and with improved command, he could make an already good bullpen even better.
Top 10 Talents 25 and Younger (born 4/1/1988 or later)
After experiencing their first winning season since 2003, Kansas City enters this coming year out to prove that their 86-win season was not just an aberration. First baseman Hosmer headlines this list, edging out the system’s top prospect Ventura. Hosmer flashed the hitting skills that carried him to a solid rookie season a few years ago and bounced back strong from a disappointing second year. That not only speaks to how the development process continues at the big-league level, but also lends a glimpse into the makeup of the player. Ventura’s stock rose within the system this past season, with an explosive fastball and sharp curveball that are going to miss bats at the highest level. The potential is enticing, but the translation of the command against unforgiving hitters and questions on future durability as a starter slot him below Hosmer…for now.
The 23-year-old catcher Perez put an All-Star game and Gold Glove on the resume in his first full year as the starter. While the league may catch up some, especially in challenging his selectiveness at the plate, he brings a valuable package at a key position for the Royals, and looks to be the long-term answer at catcher for the organization. Jason Parks favorite Raul Mondesi is just after Perez and firmly in front of former no. 2 pick Moustakas. While that may a bit aggressive placement considering the risk and likely growing pains from the 18-year-old shortstop in High-A, Mondesi’s talent is legit, and it points toward an every-day profile at the position. Moustakas regressed in 2013, with adjustments necessary to jumpstart his offensive production and maintain status as an everyday third baseman.
Right-handed starter Zimmer offers the organization a potential middle-of-the-rotation arm. This coming season in Double-A will be a good gauge of how the stuff and killer instinct stacks up against experienced competition. Prospects Almonte, Manaea and Dozier round out the last three slots. Almonte and Manaea are both high-ceiling arms that come with risk, while Dozier brings some power from the right side of the plate and likely profiles as a third baseman in the long run. –Chris Mellen
A Parting Thought: This is one of the stronger top 10s in the league, with seven prospects likely to end up in the Baseball Prospectus 101. But the depth isn’t the strength it has been in recent years, and the overall system takes a hit for that weakness.