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January 26, 2015

2015 Prospects

Kansas City Royals Top 10 Prospects

by Nick J. Faleris and BP Prospect Staff

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Last year's Royals list

The Top Ten

  1. SS Raul Mondesi
  2. RHP Miguel Almonte
  3. LHP Sean Manaea
  4. LHP Brandon Finnegan
  5. 3B Hunter Dozier
  6. RHP Kyle Zimmer
  7. RHP Christian Binford
  8. C Chase Vallot
  9. LHP Foster Griffin
  10. OF Jorge Bonifacio

1. Raul Mondesi
Position: SS
DOB: 07/27/1995
Height/Weight: 6’1” 165 lbs
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Acquired: International free agent, 2011, Dominican Republic
Previous Ranking: #2 (Org), #29 (Top 101)
2014 Stats: .211/.256/.354 at High-A Wilmington (110 games)
The Tools: 6 glove; 6 arm; 5+ potential hit; 5 potential power; 6+ run

What Happened in 2014: The precocious six-spotter flashed impact potential on all sides of the ball despite underwhelming production as the third youngest player in the High-A Carolina League.

Strengths: Shows flash and substance with the leather; fluid actions, soft hands, and left-side arm; spry lower half; swing works short and direct from both sides; capable of producing impactful contact across zone; easy 6+ straight-line speed with quick acceleration; improving reads on the bases; could boast solid-average power buoyed by doubles/triples.

Weaknesses: Undisciplined approach at the plate; can be led out of the zone; lacks ability to conform approach to game situations; pitch identification has not advanced as hoped; often overmatched by quality sequencing; over-the-fence pop could play solidly below average.

Overall Future Potential: High 6; first-division/all-star player

Realistic Role: 5; major-league regular

Risk Factor/Injury History: High; teenager still transitioning to high minors.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: There is plenty to like about Mondesi from a fantasy standpoint, but the usable ETA and home-run power diminish his shine a little. In roto leagues, he’ll likely play similarly to Erick Aybar with a touch more power at peak, but likely topping out in the 10-12 range annually. He’s a good prospect to shop in dynasty leagues because his lofty value on prospect lists is buoyed by his defense.

The Year Ahead: Mondesi has been pushed aggressively by the Royals, debuting stateside in 2012 as a 16-year-old and advancing one level each season thanks to an advanced glove and immense natural ability that has allowed him to keep his head above water while regularly competing against players two, three, and four years his senior. Evaluators who catch him on the right day have seen signs of an emerging star, but much of Mondesi’s game remains understandably unrefined. Carolina League arms were often able to draw empty swings and disrupt timing with quality secondaries and moving the ball around the zone, and the young Dominican has yet to display an ability to regularly put together a coherent approach in the box. To Mondesi’s credit, he has shown a high degree of consistency in his swing and solid balance to go with a compact stroke, all of which could add up to a plus hit tool if he can prove capable of tightening his attack and forcing pitchers to work more frequently in the zone. The time may have come for Kansas City to let Mondesi repeat a level, and another year in the eight-team Carolina League would afford him the luxury of working on his approach while getting multiple looks at a relatively limited universe of High-A arms. Despite an underwhelming 2014 slash line, this remains one of the top shortstops in the game, and even if the bat never fully emerges, he should provide value at the major-league level in some capacity thanks to the plus or better grades across the balance of his game.

Major league ETA: 2017

2. Miguel Almonte
Position: RHP
DOB: 04/04/1993
Height/Weight: 6’2” 180 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: International Free Agent, 2010, Dominican Republic
Previous Ranking: #4 (Org), #46 (Top 101)
2014 Stats: 4.50 ERA (110 IP, 107 H, 101 K, 32 BB) at High-A Wilmington
The Tools: 6+ FB; 6+ potential CH; 5 potential CB

What Happened in 2014: Almonte endured an uneven run through the Carolina League but finished the year with six strong outings before shipping out to the Arizona Fall League and showing well.

Strengths: Loose arm with good extension produces lively low- to mid-90s fastball that jumps; can throw by hitters and elevate to chase; mid-80s changeup comes with significant arm-speed deception and fastball trajectory with disappearing action; comfortable working off of the pitch to set up fastball; swing-and-miss offering; curve can show two-plane action with solid shape and is best at natural 11-to-5 axis; fits well with three-quarters slot; maturing physique showing sturdier in lower half; more strength to come; chance to grow into workhorse.

Weaknesses: Command profile below average at present; body can get out front; arm will drag, forcing ball up in the zone; fastball has tendency to run back over the plate and can be particularly hittable for lefty bats; curve still inconsistent and will get soft, losing bite; can come around breaking ball, causing it to drift between horizontal and vertical action; overreliance on changeup can limit utility of pitch once hitters have had a look; needs to improve sequencing; needs to spot better to arm side with fastball; hasn’t yet shown proficiency claiming inner half against lefties.

Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter

Realistic Role: High 5; late-inning relief/closer

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate; yet to reach Double-A, but high likelihood of major-league utility in some capacity.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Despite coming off a rough season, Almonte still shows plenty of fantasy promise. However, with his fastball/change profile from the right-side, he’s going to have a hard time getting the strikeouts he needs to be anything more than a usable SP3. His future environment will likely help him keep his ratios in check, but Almonte is going to be more of a 4x4 target than 5x5.

The Year Ahead: Almonte saw mechanical inconsistencies hamper his day-to-day execution on the bump throughout the summer, and particularly during a rough July wherein his in-zone command and execution both abandoned him, resulting in lots of hard contact. The live-armed righty seemed to find his stride as the calendar flipped to August and maintained that momentum through 19 innings of Arizona Fall League action. From the last week of July through the AFL season, Almonte logged 36.2 innings allowing just 30 hits and 14 walks (1.20 WHIP) while striking out 34 and holding the opposition to a .160 batting average. In order to take the next developmental step forward, Almonte is going to have to find more consistency in his breaking ball and better spot his fastball, which has a tendency to run into lefty barrels over the fat. There’s a comfy floor thanks to a fastball/change-up combo that could flirt with double-plus and play to impact in the late-innings, should the Royals elect to go that route. Almonte will tackle Double-A to start 2015, with a chance to earn a cup of coffee later in the season. He could compete for a rotation spot in Kansas City as early as 2016.

Major league ETA: 2016

3. Sean Manaea
Position: LHP
DOB: 02/01/1992
Height/Weight: 6’5’’ 235 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2013 draft, Indiana State University (Terre Haute, IN)
Previous Ranking: #5 (Org), #78 (Top 101)
2014 Stats: 3.11 ERA (121.2 IP, 102 H, 146 K, 54 BB) at High-A Wilmington
The Tools: 6+ FB; 6 potential SL; 6 potential CH

What Happened in 2014: In his full-season debut, the former first-rounder showed loose control and execution through the first half before running off a dominant final 11 starts, racking up 68 strikeouts over 62 innings while allowing just 37 hits, 25 walks, and 10 earned runs, all while holding opponents to a .175 average.

Strengths: Long-limbed lefty creates tough angles and solid downhill plane through cross-fire delivery and three-quarters release; fastball can reach mid-90s and plays comfortably in the 91 to 93 mph velocity band by the middle innings; low- to mid-70s changeup shows arm-side action and is most effective as a chase pitch to righties; slider flashes plus with tilt and solid shape; can be devastating pitch to same-side arms due to tough angle and release point; flashes ability to drop on back foot of righties; control improved with mechanical consistency as season stretched on; finished season on strong note while reaching 120-plus innings, alleviating some durability concerns; improved balance and line to plate by season’s end.

Weaknesses: Control is average and outdistances command at present; fastball can get straight, reliant on plane and angle to avoid barrels; can lose release on slider leading to soft frisbee that can stick on swing plane; trouble working in to righties with consistency; slider lacks track record and could top out as average offering; motion doesn’t come naturally to him, and command profile may always be an issue; multitude of injuries on resume.

Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter

Realistic Role: 5; no. 4 starter

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate; yet to reach Double-A; injury/durability concerns.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: If I could own any Royals prospect in a dynasty league right now, it would be Manaea, who will look to keep the gains he made down the stretch last year and fulfill the promise that made him a potential top-five pick in the 2013 draft, prior to his injury. He will likely always fight his WHIP a little, but with the potential for a 3.25 ERA or lower and a strikeout per inning, he has the upside of an SP2 in all leagues.

The Year Ahead: Manaea made good progress in 2014, most significantly in showing an ability to stay on the field and take the ball every fifth day. There is still a fair amount of inconsistency in his pitch execution, which periodically leaves both his slider and changeup as fringy offerings, but at his best he can show three legit major-league weapons with plus or better upside. He is still learning how to reach both sides of the plate with his arsenal, and one evaluator commented that he would like to see Manaea closer to the third-base side of the rubber so as to allow for a broader collection of entry points into the strike zone. If the former Sycamore can continue to build on the mechanical improvements he saw in the second half, he could emerge in 2015 as a true potential impact arm, though most see him as a future mid-rotation talent that will give you a blend of front- to back-end production from start to start.

Major league ETA: 2016

4. Brandon Finnegan
Position: LHP
DOB: 04/14/1993
Height/Weight: 5’11” 185 lbs
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2014 draft, Texas Christian University (Fort Worth, TX)
Previous Ranking: NA
2014 Stats: 1.29 ERA (7 IP, 6 H, 10 K, 1 BB) at major-league level, 2.25 ERA (12 IP, 15 H, 13 K, 2 BB) at Double-A Northwest Arkansas, 0.60 ERA (15 IP, 5 H, 13 K, 2 BB) at High-A Wilmington
The Tools: 6+ FB; 6 potential SL; 5 CH

What Happened in 2014: Finnegan was one of the most impressive arms at the collegiate ranks this spring, showing power stuff out of the TCU rotation and earning a first-round selection in June’s draft before speeding through the minors as a reliever and eventually becoming the first pitcher ever to throw in both the College and MLB World Series in the same season.

Strengths: Strong three-pitch mix led by low- to mid-90s fastball with some late explosion; can pound the quadrants with the heater, reaching as high as 96/97 mph in short stints; low-80s slider can flash plus with sharp break and good deception off the fastball trajectory; changeup is solid average offering with some tumble; solid feel across the arsenal; aggressive demeanor on mound; attacks hitters with fastball and slider; comfortable working across the zone and out of it; sturdy build; repeats well.

Weaknesses: Non-traditional starter height; fastball lacks plane and become hittable when velo dips; showed clear step down in stuff and effectiveness second and third time through order as starter; missed time in spring due to shoulder stiffness; throws with fair amount of effort; arm drag starts to show later in starts, pushing fastball up and out and causing decrease in slider utility.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-tier closer

Realistic Role: High 5; late-inning reliever/closer

Risk Factor/Injury History: Low; major-league ready as reliever; shoulder issues in 2014; has yet to demonstrate durability.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: We saw what Finnegan was capable of at the major-league level down the stretch in 2014, but he’ll give back some of that performance if he does successfully make it to the Royals rotation. With a strong chance of moving to the bullpen and recent injury concerns, his value is tied to multiple risks, but there is enough talent to make him an SP3, who can strikeout nearly a batter an inning with an ERA that is more valuable than his WHIP. As a reliever, he’d be very strong across the board, but would be much less attractive in dynasty leagues.

The Year Ahead: Finnegan looked like a potential top-ten arm in the 2014 draft class before missing time due to shoulder stiffness, showing comfort with three quality offerings, two of which could play to plus at the major-league level. While the raw stuff is there to turn over major-league lineups, his sub-six-foot stature, high-effort delivery, and a clear downward trend in effectiveness later in his starts this spring all seem to point to a much better fit in the back of the Royals pen. He would likely need to be stretched out some in order to transition to the rotation with no guarantee he would be ready to contribute at the big-league level in such capacity in 2015. With Kansas City coming off of a World Series appearance, the Royals may opt for the bird in the hand, keeping Finnegan in the pen where he can provide a powerful late-inning lefty arm throughout the 2015 campaign, with an opportunity to eventually step into the team’s closer role down the line.

Major league ETA: Debuted in 2014

5. Hunter Dozier
Position: 3B
DOB: 08/22/1991
Height/Weight: 6’4” 220 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2013 draft, Stephen F. Austin State University (Nacogdoches, TX)
Previous Ranking: #6 (Org), #96 (Top 101)
2013 Stats: .209/.303/.312 at Double-A Northwest Arkansas (64 games), .295/.397/.429 at High-A Wilmington (66 games)
The Tools: 6 power potential; 5 potential hit; 6 arm; 5 run; 5 glove

What Happened in 2014: It was a tale of two seasons for Dozier, as the former first-rounder feasted on Carolina League arms for two months before being eaten up by the Southern League upon promotion.

Strengths: Leveraged swing; strength to produce hard contact to all fields; core is an asset; feel for barrel; sound strike-zone awareness; ability to put together quality at-bats; solid hands at hot corner; lower half and arm should play to five spot; exhibits adequate body control; better runner than size would indicate; nose for the game; mature approach to all facets; handles successes and failures with even demeanor; plus makeup.

Weaknesses: Still learning to lift the ball; swing can get long; hitchy trigger; contact ability could be a question at upper levels; issues with velocity; can get caught cheating to get to inner half; bat could fall short of impact; still refining actions at third base.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Realistic Role: 5; major-league regular

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate; significant struggles in first taste of upper minors.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The power is certainly tempting to fantasy owners, but the rest of the profile does a good job of slowing rolls. Dozier is going to struggle to hit for the type of average that won’t hurt you in mixed leagues, and he’ll need to bring that power to the 20-25 range to be a top-ten third baseman one day. He’s more valuable in OBP and points formats to boot.

The Year Ahead: After a 2013 campaign that exceeded all expectations, Dozier looked well on his way to a true breakout season through the first half of 2014. The wheels came off after his midseason promotion to Northwest Arkansas, where the Stephen F. Austin product struggled to keep pace with Double-A arms capable of better implementing quality secondaries while spotting velocity up and on the inner half. Too often, Dozier would get tripped up by off-speed early in the count, slowing down his bat and allowing pitchers to exploit his coverage holes with the heater. He showed some signs of adjustment during his stint in the Arizona Fall League, where he continued to display a strong feel for the zone and ability to track, though issues with sequencing and velocity in the zone persisted. Dozier may always struggle to hit for significant average given some of his coverage issues, so it will be important for him to manifest in-game power with more regularity if he is to grow into a legit first-division talent. He has just enough raw to keep pitchers honest when working the zone, and he’ll have to continue to grow on that front if he’s to fully leverage his advanced eye to produce a strong on-base/average delta. Dozier should return to Double-A in 2015 in hopes of proving last year’s struggles to be nothing more than a developmental blip on his climb towards Kansas City.

Major league ETA: 2016

6. Kyle Zimmer
Position: RHP
DOB: 09/13/1991
Height/Weight: 6’3” 215 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2012 draft, University of San Francisco (San Francisco, CA)
Previous Ranking: #3 (Org), #34 (Top 101)
2014 Stats: 1.93 ERA (4.2 IP, 5 H, 5 K, 4 BB) at Rookie-level Idaho Falls
The Tools: 7 FB; 6+ potential CB; 5+ potential SL; 5 potential CH

What Happened in 2014: It was a lost year for Zimmer, whose continued battle with various ailments kept him off the field for all but a handful of regular-season innings and three Arizon Fall League starts totaling an additional 9.2 innings.

Strengths: Frontline stuff when healthy and clicking; fastball can play comfortably in the mid-90s, reaching as high as 99 mph; multi-look curve can come as a 12-to-6 hammer or a softer two-plane breaker bridging the axis gap with his slider; short slider is power offering in mid- to upper 80s with tilt and late action; can turn over change with some arm-side sink and will also utilize a cut variation for another look; strong and sturdy from trunk through core; solid command and feel.

Weaknesses: Lengthy medical sheet, including biceps, shoulder, lat, and elbow over past two seasons; offseason surgery to clean up shoulder; ball can be visible out of the hand; still looking to solidify feel for off-speed; missed developmental time in 2014 and to start 2015 will complicate ability to build up innings and continue to refine feel.

Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3

Realistic Role: High 5; late-inning reliever/closer

Risk Factor/Injury History: High; robust injury history; yet to log significant innings in upper minors.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: If you know what to expect from Zimmer going forward, then either I'd like to borrow your time machine or take whatever you're on. There continues to be SP2 potential with large strikeout numbers looming, but his health may never permit that type of fantasy future.

The Year Ahead: While Zimmer’s collection of power offerings bring the balance and bite of an exquisitely crafted fine-dining entree, a season’s worth of injuries limited evaluators to but an amuse-bouche sampling of the righty’s goods. It’s difficult to nail down expectations for the USF product entering 2015, given the uncertain status of his shoulder and fluid timetable for his return to action. When healthy, Zimmer shows true front-end potential. He’s an obvious late-inning candidate if his arm proves incapable of shouldering a pro starter’s load, but the Royals will likely continue to work with Zimmer in a rotation until circumstances demand a change in roles. This season is all about getting back on the field and logging reps, though even that first step remains an uncertainty at this point following his offseason exploratory surgery. Zimmer was near major-league ready before being shelved, so the Royals could push him quickly as soon as he is back up and running.

Major league ETA: 2016

7. Christian Binford
Position: RHP
DOB: 12/20/1992
Height/Weight: 6’6” 217 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 30th round, 2011 draft, Mercersburg Academy (Mercersburg, PA)
Previous Ranking: NR
2014 Stats: 5.40 ERA (10 IP, 16 H, 9 K, 5 BB) at Triple-A Omaha, 3.19 ERA (48 IP, 45 H, 38 K, 6 BB) at Double-A Northwest Arkansas, 2.40 ERA (82.2 IP, 72 H, 92 K, 11 BB) at High-A Wilmington
The Tools: 5+ potential FB ; 5+ potential CH

What Happened in 2014: The command righty relied on guile and execution in navigating his way from High-A Wilmington to Triple-A Omaha over the course of the 2014 season, leaving Binford a hop, skip, and a jump from his major-league debut.

Strengths: Plus command profile; extremely heavy fastball with late dive across 88 to 92 mph velocity range; spots pitch well to the corners and across the knees; difficult offering to lift; cambio mirrors fastball action with pronounced tumble keeping bats on the upper half of the ball; maturing frame still has room for additional strength; repeats well and shows firm handle wielding fastball and change piece; will rotate fastball and change as lead offerings, providing different looks while turning over lineups.

Weaknesses: Curve is fringy offering at present; inconsistent bite limits utility; “show me” pitch; needs to firm up breaking ball to push towards ceiling; fastball can flatten up in zone; thin margin for error across repertoire; stuff lacks impact; reliant on command and sequencing to disrupt timing and keep balls off of barrels.

Overall Future Potential: High 5; no. 3/4 starter

Realistic Role: High 4; no. 4/5 starter

Risk Factor/Injury History: Low; lacks plus offering; will need to prove capable of keeping upper-minors bats at bay.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: When you see words like “crafty” and “fringy” littered throughout scouting reports, you know you’re looking at a pitching prospect who should be avoided in most mixed leagues. If you’re in AL-only leagues, Binford is a nice name to track in the back of your head over the next 18 months or so.

The Year Ahead: Binford doesn’t wow with his stuff, but extended exposure to his ability to work his craft has a way of winning over evaluators. Because there isn’t a “go to” weapon in his cache, it is tough to buy into the limby righty as a sure fire major-league starter. The same, to ignore Binford’s steady execution and surgical command through this past season does a disservice to the profile. Without question, the native Keystone-stater will need to work in a more dependable breaking ball to maintain his strikeout rates through the upper minors and at the major-league level, and a case can be made that he will need to lean on his command to more effectively work outside of the zone against those upper-tier sticks. There’s still a chance Binford sees a half-grade uptick in velocity as he continues to mature, and there is enough strength and durability for the righty to accrue value via innings logged, so long as he can remain effective while dealing to big-league lineups. He’ll likely begin 2015 as part of the Double-A Northwest Arkansas rotation with an eye towards an in-season promotion to Omaha and, perhaps, a late-season call-up to the big club, depending on need. Binford’s combination of deception, command, and groundball tendencies give him a chance to beat the odds as a command righty without a standout offering.

Major league ETA: 2016

8. Chase Vallot
Position: C
DOB: 08/21/1996
Height/Weight: 6’0” 215 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2014 draft, St. Thomas More (Lafayette, LA)
Previous Ranking: NR
2014 Stats: .215/.329/.403 at Rookie-level Burlington
The Tools: 6 potential power; 5 potential hit; 6 arm; 5 potential glove

What Happened in 2014: Vallot followed a strong showing on the showcase circuit with a productive spring that included a slimmed-down and tightened physique, earning him a supplemental first-round selection in the June draft. He then went on to hold his own in his pro debut, despite not turning 18 until the second to last week of the season.

Strengths: Plus raw power that plays in game; big strength with natural lift and loft; easy power to the oppo gap; nice feel for the barrel; lots of leverage and solid bat speed; plus arm strength; moves reasonably well for size; big makeup; on-field leader; evaluators point to work ethic and progress behind plate as evidence of his likelihood to stick behind the dish; one of the younger talents in the draft class.

Weaknesses: Below-average runner; swing can move quickly in and out of zone, limiting points of impact; below-average receiver at present; actions can get stiff; needs to improve transfer and release for arm strength to play to potential.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Realistic Role: High 4; offensive minded, second-tier catcher/power bat off the bench.

Risk Factor/Injury History: High; limited pro exposure.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The upside is certainly fun to dream on in fantasy leagues, but prep catchers make for relatively poor investments due to their incredibly distant usable ETAs. Sure, Vallot could be a 25-plus homer catcher in time, but if it doesn’t happen until 2020, that isn’t all that useful right now.

The Year Ahead: Vallot’s youth, work ethic, plus arm, and plus power make for an intriguing low-minors catching prospect, as the former Mississippi State commit has the tools to develop into a solid all-around backstop with impact potential in the middle of a lineup. Vallot struggled some to make consistent contact in his debut, though evaluators with a deeper history with Vallot aren’t turned off by his high-strikeout rate over his first 200 pro plate appearances. The powerful righty bat displayed a solid approach, the willingness to work deep into a count and take a walk, and an ability to put a hurt on the ball when he gets it where he wants it. Vallot will play almost his entire 2015 season at the age of 18, and is advanced enough to be challenged with a full-season assignment. If he can continue to demonstrate an ability and a willingness to work the count and find his pitches, there is enough hand-eye ability for the average to play up and more than enough power for the profile to grow into a middle-of-the-order run producer.

Major league ETA: 2018

9. Foster Griffin
Position: LHP
DOB: 07/27/1995
Height/Weight: 6’4” 200 lbs
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2014 draft, The First Academy (Orlando, FL)
Previous Ranking: NA
2014 Stats: 3.21 ERA (28 IP, 19 H, 19 K, 12 BB) at Rookie-level Burlington
The Tools: 6 potential FB; 6 potential CH; 5+ potential CB

What Happened in 2014: The projectable Griffin spiked mid-90s velocity early in the spring before settling in as an upper-80s to low-90s lefty arm capable of flashing a plus change and above-average curve from time to time—enough to get him off the board at 28th overall in June’s draft.

Strengths: Good athlete; projectable frame; solid body control and some feel for repeatability and execution; fastball plays well from 88 to 92 mph and comes with some downhill plane; long arms can create angles; changeup shows regular 8 to 12 mph delta off of the fastball with good arm speed and slot deception; works as swing-and-miss offering or to draw soft contact; curve will flash average depth and above-average downer bite; lots of room to add strength; projects as innings-eater with upside arsenal.

Weaknesses: Velocity can drop off later in game; faded some during pro debut; ball can be easy to pick up out of the hand; can get loose in the zone; fastball lacks life; will need to further develop breaking ball to miss bats with consistency.

Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter

Realistic Role: High 4; no. 4/5 starter

Risk Factor/Injury History: High; limited pro exposure.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The 2014 first-rounder has a good base to work with from a fantasy standpoint, though the depth of prep arms in his class will push him down in dynasty drafts this year. Look for him to come off the board in the fourth round in most leagues.

The Year Ahead: Griffin provides a solid foundation for a pro developmental staff to work with. While projectable and broad with long limbs, Griffin does not struggle to implement instruction and make adjustments without throwing the remainder of his game out of whack. If things break right for the southpaw, he could finish with three plus offerings and a spot in the middle of the Royals rotation when all is said and done. First things first, the former Ole Miss commit will need to build up innings and improve upon his stamina and durability. He could start 2015 in extended in order to better manage his workload, and could see innings in short-season ball or with the Low-A affilitate, depending on system needs and opportunity.

Major league ETA: 2019

10. Jorge Bonifacio
Position: OF
DOB: 06/04/1993
Height/Weight: 6’1” 192 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: International free agent, 2009, Dominican Republic
Previous Ranking: #7 (Org), #99 (Top 101)
2013 Stats: .230/.302/.309 at Double-A Northwest Arkansas (132 games)
The Tools: 6 power potential; 7 arm; 5 potential hit, 5 potential glove

What Happened in 2014: Bonifacio returned to Double-A Northwest Arkansas and found the confines to be not so cozy, as the young power bat failed to make regular hard contact and struggled to keep pace with more advanced velocity and secondaries.

Strengths: Will show impressive raw power; capable of driving oppo; some idea as to approach at the plate; right-field arm; moves well enough for size to grow into average defender; good bat speed; willing to let the ball travel and rely on quick hands to find the ball with the barrel.

Weaknesses: High-maintenance body; wide base can limit ability to tap into strong trunk; can get out front through weight transfer; swing can get long; bat speed to catch up to velocity but early trigger exposes swing against secondaries.

Overall Future Potential: High 5; above-average regular

Realistic Role: High 4; below-average regular/corner bat off the bench

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate; yet to find upper-minors success.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: It was tough to take any positives away from his 2014 season, but Bonifacio still has the potential to be an OF3 who can hit 25-plus homers annually at the major-league level. Of course, the risk is much greater at this point, though this is more of a real-life concern than dynasty league one.

The Year Ahead: Bonifacio has the raw tools to develop into an above-average right-field producer, but there is still a wide gulf between present skill set and where he needs to be in order to reach that ceiling. At this stage in his development, Bonifacio is going to have to show an ability to start making adjustments to how he is pitched instead of relying on a reactive approach predicated on solid tracking, strike zone awareness, and bat speed. There is also a question as to whether or not his swing needs to be retooled some to help him better tap into his raw power, though the Royals would settle for average pop if it comes with an average hit tool and on-base production. Still young for his level, Bonifacio will repeat Double-A in 2015 after hovering in a developmental holding pattern this past season. He represents the best bet at present to provide a long-term solution in right field, and with incremental improvements, could put himself back on track to debut in Kansas City by 2016.

Major league ETA: 2016


Prospects on the Rise:

1. RHP Scott Blewett: As a projectable, cold-weather arm, Blewett saw his stock yo-yo throughout the evaluative process leading up to the 2014 draft, ultimately coming off the board to Kansas City in the second round. Blewett has reached 96 mph in the past, but saw his velocity generally fall off through the course of his starts and the spring season. At his best he’ll leverage his 6-foot-6 stature and reach to produce a low-90s fastball on a steep downhill plane, with an ability to bump to the mid-90s with a flatter heater up in the zone. His curve has shown solid growth since the start of his senior year, and could round into an above-average pitch with a more consistent release. Blewett is a long way off, but there is significant upside in the profile. He could be challenged with a jump to full-season ball if he looks ready come spring, and should slide comfortably into the top ten next year.

2. OF Brandon Downes: Downes started strong this spring, including a two home-run performance against one of the top collegiate arms in the country, East Carolina’s Jeff Hoffman. As UVA worked its way through conference play, however, Downes got roughed up both physically and metaphorically, struggling both with minor injuries and an unraveling approach. The Royals were able to pop him in the seventh round, and the former Wahoo rewarded the selection with a solid Pioneer League debut at the plate. He runs well enough to stick in center, where his arm is an asset, and the bat carries with it 5/5 hit/power upside. Through his spring struggles Downes had trouble getting his barrel started, with his hands lagging behind the rest of his swing. He showed some of those same proclivities in pro ball, and he’ll need to tighten things up some moving forward as advanced arms will be able to more easily exploit the added length and further disrupt his timing. The hope is that as he puts more distance between himself and the wrist injury that hampered him this spring, the natural bat-to-ball and above-average raw will take over.

3. OF Elier Hernandez: Hernandez flirted with the top ten for the second straight year, and once again warrants mention as an up-and-comer capable of breaking out next year. There is plus bat speed providing ample juice for hard contact, and Hernandez showed flashes of emerging pop throughout the summer, and most noticeably during an impressive August that saw the then 19-year-old put together a .340/.365/.490 slash line over 106 plate appearances. Hernandez is still too aggressive, and will need to start refining the approach as he ascends to the Carolina League in 2015 where the book gets out on players quickly. With Jorge Bonifacio stumbling some at Double-A, Hernandez has a chance to close the gap and potentially usurp him as the Royals right fielder of the future with a strong showing at High-A Wilmington.


Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2015):

1. 2B/INF Christian Colon: The former first-rounder—and fourth overall selection—finally made his major-league debut in 2014 after a long four-plus year slog through the system and more than held his own in limited action. The former Cal State Fullerton Titan has a balanced profile with no standout tool but a lot of baseball acumen and good overall feel. He should be able to hit for solid average with little in the way of pop, while providing steady defense as an everyday second baseman or in a limited capacity at short and third. He could excel in a utility role and will add value off the bench as a contact-oriented bat who’s capable of laying down a bunt when needed and can run the bases well in spite of fringe-average straight-line speed.

2. LHP Brian Flynn: Flynn came over to the Royals in exchange for Aaron Crow this past November and should have the opportunity to compete for a rotation spot this spring. The big lefty will show four average pitches, each of which he can wield with solid feel. His best offering is an upper-80s to low-90s heater that he can throw effectively to both sides of the plate, while his worst is a fringy curve that lacks bite and serves best as a surprise, early-count offering. There is limited upside, but plenty of value to be found in a left-handed, back-end starter capable of giving you 160 to 180 innings.

3. LHP Sam Selman: Selman has officially transitioned to relief, where his fastball and slider can both play up in shorter stints. More importantly, the adverse effects of his well below-average command are lessened in limited one-inning exposure, and through his 11 Arizona Fall League relief appearances the former Vandy Commodore was much better able to keep the ball in and around the zone, totaling 12 strikeouts to just 3 walks over his 13 innings pitched. Selman is likely to start the year with Triple-A Omaha, but has an outside shot at breaking camp with the big club if he can continue to build upon his solid AFL showing. If Selman proves ready for the bright lights of Kansas City, he would provide coverage as a lefty arm out of the pen should the Royals attempt to transition Brandon Finnegan into a starting role, likely through a high-minors assignment where his innings could be managed to start the season.


Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/89 or later)

  1. Eric Hosmer
  2. Yordano Ventura
  3. Salvador Perez
  4. Raul Mondesi
  5. Kelvin Herrera
  6. Miguel Almonte
  7. Sean Manaea
  8. Brandon Finnegan
  9. Hunter Dozier
  10. Kyle Zimmer


The reigning American League champions have a strong core of controllable talent, and while players like Danny Duffy, Alcides Escobar, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain have outgrown this list, it still remains a strength for the organization. The battle for the top spot comes down to two homegrown talents: their enigmatic first basemen who raised his game in the second half and playoffs last year and their diminutive fire-baller who took the fan base by storm during his rookie campaign. After some research and a lot of back and forth with BP colleagues about which player would be the top pick with which to start a franchise, my initial inclination to place Eric Hosmer at the top was confirmed.

There have always been astronomical expectations for Hosmer and he has yet to tap into the power that most thought he would have. Despite this, there's still plenty of offensive potential, along with the strong defense he already brings to the table. Yordano Ventura was also highly qualified for the top spot, but with only one full year as a big-league starter under his belt and the possibility that he ends up in the bullpen still hanging over his head, Hosmer earned the edge. For the second straight year, the third spot here belongs to Salvador Perez. Since entering the big leagues in 2011 at age 21, Perez has put together a line of .285/.315/.433 while playing displaying a strong glove behind the plate. The combination of his offensive and defensive production pushes him above the first true prospect on this list, Raul Mondesi, who threatens to contribute on both side of the ball as well. Kelvin Herrera put together a monster season manning the back of the bullpen along with Wade Davis and Greg Holland. His potential value as a future closer pushes Herrera to fifth on this list. The possibility exists that the man currently tasked with getting the final three outs, Holland, could be traded or even leave in free agency. In that scenario, Herrera likely gains the inside track to replace him, with Davis set to become a free agent after this season.

The Royals system once again proves to be quite deep and very talented. The organization’s ability to develop talent in the minor leagues, as demonstrated by the top three names on this list, gives them an advantage going forward. Most of the above prospects have reached Double-A and are close to contributing to the major-league club, and the ones who haven't will most likely see time there this season. After winning the AL pennant in 2014, the young talent the Royals possess should keep them contending for a long stretch. –CJ Wittmann


A Parting Thought: A solid influx of draft and international acquisitions over the past two years have helped to restock the lower levels and buoy the system despite inconsistent showings from some of the more high-profile names and a lost season from Kyle Zimmer. This remains a deep collection of upside and probability, with major-league contributors at the ready and potential impact sprinkled throughout.

Nick J. Faleris is a practicing structured finance attorney and Sports Industry team member in the Milwaukee office of Foley & Lardner LLP. The views he expresses at Baseball Prospectus are his own, and not necessarily those of the law firm.

Nick J. Faleris is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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