Top 20 Prospects: Kansas City Royals

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the Kansas City Royals farm system. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from my own observations. The KATOH statistical projections, probable-outcome graphs, and (further down) Mahalanobis comps have been provided by Chris Mitchell. For more information on thes 20-80 scouting scale by which all of my prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this. -Eric Longenhagen

The KATOH projection system uses minor-league data and Baseball America prospect rankings to forecast future performance in the major leagues. For each player, KATOH produces a WAR forecast for his first six years in the major leagues. There are drawbacks to scouting the stat line, so take these projections with a grain of salt. Due to their purely objective nature, the projections here can be useful in identifying prospects who might be overlooked or overrated. Due to sample-size concerns, only players with at least 200 minor-league plate appearances or batters faced last season have received projections. -Chris Mitchell

Other Lists
NL West (ARI, COL, LAD, SD, SF)
AL Central (CHW, CLE, DET, KC, MIN)
NL Central (CHC, CIN, PIT, MIL, StL)
NL East (ATL, MIA, NYM, PHI, WAS)
AL East (BAL, BOSNYY, TB, TOR)

Royals Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Matt Strahm 25 MLB LHP 2017 55
2 Hunter Dozier 25 MLB 3B 2017 50
3 Josh Staumont 22 AA RHP 2018 45
4 Ryan O’Hearn 23 AA 1B 2018 45
5 Scott Blewett 20 A RHP 2020 45
6 A.J. Puckett 21 A RHP 2019 45
7 Khalil Lee 18 R OF 2021 45
8 Eric Skoglund 24 AA LHP 2017 45
9 Meibrys Viloria 19 R C 2020 45
10 Jorge Bonifacio 23 AAA OF 2017 45
11 Seuly Matias 18 R OF 2021 40
12 Nolan Watson 19 A RHP 2020 40
13 Jake Junis 24 AAA RHP 2017 40
14 Kyle Zimmer 25 AA RHP 2019 40
15 Samir Duenez 20 AA 1B 2019 40
16 Chase Vallot 20 A C 2020 40
17 Miguel Almonte 23 MLB RHP 2017 40
18 Garrett Davila 19 R LHP 2019 40
19 Jeison Guzman 18 R SS 2021 40
20 Nicky Lopez 21 R SS 2020 40

55 FV Prospects

1. Matt Strahm, LHP
Drafted: 21st Round, 2012 from Neosho CCC (KS)
Age 25 Height 6’4 Weight 180 Bat/Throw R/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
60/60 60/70 45/50 50/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 30 strikeouts in 22 big-league innings.

Scouting Report
Strahm saw a 148% uptick in innings as a sophomore at Neosho CC in 2012 and pitched complete games in 11 of his 14 starts (though many of them were not a full nine innings). Strahm dominated and his stuff ticked up as the year went along. (All told, Strahm added almost 15 mph to his fastball between his senior year of high school and his sophomore year of JUCO.) Nevertheless, he lasted until the 21st round of June’s draft. He began experiencing discomfort in his elbow during the 2012 offseason and was misdiagnosed with a stress reaction when in fact he needed Tommy John, which he ultimately received in the summer of 2013. He missed all of 2014 recovering.

In 2015, after two full years without pitching a pro inning, Strahm pitched so well that Kansas City was forced to add him to the 40-man to protect him from last year’s Rule 5 draft. He made his big-league debut this year and, largely, had success.

Strahm’s fastball was touching 97 in relief this year. It sits in the low 90s during extended outings but has exceptional, bat-missing life in the zone and is a plus offering. His curveball is already plus, flashes better than that, and Strahm’s ability to locate it in several effective locales allows the pitch to miss bats against both left- and right-handed hitters. Strahm will break off curveball featuring spin rates in excess of 3,000 RPMs. His changeup is fringey right now and only projects to average, but Strahm is able to maintain his fastball’s arm speed during release, which allows the pitch to induce sub-optimal contact.

Because of Strahm’s ability to locate his curveball effectively, I don’t think significant changeup progression is a necessary component for Strahm to attain a mid-rotation ceiling. If he can refine his fastball command, I think he can get by using the fastball/breaking ball against hitters from both sides while using the changeup as a tertiary change of pace.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.2 WAR

matt-strahm-likelihood-of-outcomes

50 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2013 from Stephen F. Austin
Age 25 Height 6’4 Weight 220 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 60/60 40/50 40/30 40/45 55/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Produced .631 OPS at Double-A in 2015. Produced .899 OPS across three levels (Double-A to majors) in 2016.

Scouting Report
In a vacuum, Dozier was viewed as an overdraft at eighth overall in 2013, but the Royals targeted him as an underslot candidate so they could scoop up Sean Manaea later in the evening. Once Dozier reached Double-A, he began to struggle with contact. He languished there for parts of two seasons before making adjustments this year. For now, it’s working. Dozier finally solved Double-A and was rewarded with an early-season promotion to Triple-A, where he continued to mash. He made his major-league debut at age 25 in September.

There’s a lot to unpack here, especially for a 25-year-old prospect, so let’s begin with the swing and what I think led to Dozier’s resurgence. His load at Stephen F. Austin (Jeremiah Trotter’s alma mater) was excessively high and deep and, as you can see in the linked video, this made Dozier excessively long to the ball and prevented his barrel from occupying the hitting zone for very long. It wasn’t a sustainable approach to hitting. To a degree, Dozier has corrected this, though he still nearly bars his front arm at times and loads his hands a bit high. Major-league pitchers attacked him up and in in September.

Dozier tracks pitches well, keeps his footwork simple and has improved his usage of the entire field. Despite his hulking appearance, he doesn’t project to hit for plus game power because of this approach, but he could knock out 18-plus homers annually while hitting around .260.

Defensively, Dozier is a good athlete with a strong arm (his fastball creeped into the low-90s in his rare college relief outings) and, while he was a college shortstop, looked likely to stick at third base in pro ball. He hasn’t polished things up there as much as scouts would like and began seeing time at first base and in both corner-outfield spots this year. He played right field exclusively in the big leagues.

With Kansas City’s big-league roster clogged at the corners for another year, I expect Dozier to continue playing, primarily, as an outfield corner. He could be passable at third base if he moves there, and projects as an average defender in the outfield. His ultimate position will probably be determined by what Kansas City does with their upcoming free agents. He projects as an average regular.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 3.7 WAR

hunter-dozier-likelihood-of-outcomes

45 FV Prospects

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2015 from Azusa Pacific
Age 23 Height 6’3 Weight 200 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
70/70 60/70 40/45 40/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 167 strikeouts and 104 walks over 123 innings in 2016.

Scouting Report
I saw Staumont pitch in college at Azusa Pacific (where I nearly lost a finger shooting this video) and that day he was touching 101 with ease and flashing a plus breaking ball. He also still struggled not only with his own control but with opposing small-school hitters. Such is life for the pitcher with a huge fastball in a league with composite bats and 300-foot fences.

The playing environment at Azusa was not pitcher-friendly and, at the time, I posited that some of Staumont’s control issues there stemmed from a propensity to nibble on the edges of the strike zone to avoid balls in play. Nothing about his delivery was overly violent or full of effort; he just struggled with his release point and timing some elements of the delivery.

We’re through parts of two pro seasons for Staumont and his struggles with control remain. His inefficiency, coupled with a delivery that doesn’t efficiently utilize his lower half, have many convinced that Staumont’s future role lies in a bullpen. In the Arizona Fall League he sat 94-97 with his fastball, touching as high as 99 with a comfortably plus low-80s curveball that looks like it’s done descending but then keeps dropping and dropping until it’s underneath barrels and in the dirt. These two pitches, in concert with another, could be dominant in a relief role, especially if the fastball velocity ticks up into the upper 90s in shorter stints. Staumont’s changeup flashes average but is routinely below it, though its extreme velocity separation from his fastball (it sits 77-80 mph) makes it rather intriguing.

Because Staumont has the requisite physicality and and ease to his delivery, there’s a non-zero chance he figures out how to throw strikes and ends up starting. I have him projected as a late-inning reliever, but even that will necessitate better control than he has now.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.8 WAR

josh-staumont-likelihood-of-outcomes

Drafted: 8th Round, 2014 from Sam Houston St
Age 23 Height 6’3 Weight 200 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/55 55/55 45/50 30/30 50/55 50/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Posted .182 ISO at Double-A in 2016.

Scouting Report
While lacking loud offensive tools, O’Hearn’s approach and ability to reliably lift the baseball in the air — as well as play a good defensive first base — open the door for him to be an average everyday player if everything comes together.

O’Hearn uses his lower half the same way Corey Seager does (though without Seager’s elite bat speed) throughout his swing, and it allows him to create leverage in his cut and hit the ball in the air to all fields. O’Hearn has above-average raw power and, despite the swinging and missing his approach creates, he largely gets to it in games. He could hit 18-22 homers annually at peak, even if he only hits .250 or so while he does it.

If O’Hearn can maintain his minor-league walk rate into the majors then we’re probably looking at a stat line similar to the .255/.334/.447 recorded by the average big-league first baseman in 2016. O’Hearn’s defensive profile is incomplete, as he features poor footwork and range but exceptional hands. He’s an average defender in aggregate but could be above with big-league instruction.

Now 23, O’Hearn’s path to big-league time has grown short and walkable, especially with the impending free agency of Eric Hosmer on the horizon. I expect to see plenty of him in 2018 and think he’ll be an average regular at peak, though there’s some risk in the swing and miss.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.3 WAR

ryan-ohearn-likelihood-of-outcomes

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2014 from Baker HS (NY)
Age 21 Height 6’6 Weight 210 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
50/60 55/60 40/50 40/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Strikeout rate increased from 17% in 2015 to 21% in ’16 despite nearly 50% increase in workload.

Scouting Report
Blewett seemed like a likely first-round pick in 2014 but dealt with a shoulder injury as a senior and fell a round as a result. Blewett’s stuff at the time (low-90s fastball, breaking-ball feel) had an extremely favorable developmental context supporting it. The athleticism he possessed relative to his size, his good arm action, the cold-weather origins: it helped explain away some of the rawness.

Blewett was pushed quite hard for a pitcher with that background (though Blewett was a bit old for his class), and was sent to the Appy League after the draft in 2014 instead of the AZL. He then began 2015 in the Sally League, which he repeated as a 20-year old in 2016. His results had been middling, but he began to put things together late in 2016 where he struck out 56 over his last 48 innings.

Blewett’s body is still projectable and so, too, is his fastball, which projects to plus at maturity due to a pleasing combination of velo, plane and movement. His fastball command is lacking — and is arguably the most important aspect of Blewett’s development — but Blewett’s size and geographic background allow for aggressive projection.

His curveball, which flashes plus and should mature there, gets swings and misses both in and beneath the zone. He doesn’t have explosive arm speed, so it’s unlikely that the changeup becomes a dominant offering down the line, but it should be average with reps.

With a plus fastball/curveball combination on the way, Blewett projects as a league-average fourth starter provided his fastball command takes a significant leap forward.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.3 WAR

scott-blewett-likelihood-of-outcomes

6. A.J. Puckett, RHP
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from Pepperdine
Age 22 Height 6’4 Weight 185 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
50/50 45/50 55/60 55/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 0.92 WHIP at Pepperdine in 2016.

Scouting Report
The command/changeup pitching-prospect archetype is one more commonly found among left-handed pitchers, who use that combination of skills to attack right-handed hitters. A.J. Puckett isn’t a left-handed-pitcher but possesses the command/changeup profile anyway. Puckett’s fastball sits 90-93, will touch 94 and is only average despite his command of it due to a lack of plane and movement. His changeup, 82-85 with big fade, regularly flashes plus and should mature there. His curveball is inconsistent, in part because Puckett doesn’t reliably get over his front side to generate power downward movement, but the pitch should be average with more reps. He’s an above-average athlete.

Because Puckett’s breaking-ball projection is limited, so too is his ceiling. He projects as a quick-moving No. 4 or 5 starter.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.6 WAR

aj-puckett-likelihood-of-outcomes

7. Khalil Lee, OF
Drafted: 3rd Round, 2016 from Flint HS (VA)
Age 19 Height 5’10 Weight 182 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/40 50/60 30/50 50/40 40/50 60/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
In first pro season, 42% of hits led to extra bases.

Scouting Report
Perhaps no high-school hitter from the 2016 draft experienced a more inexplicable physical transformation over the course of the last year than Lee, who was once considered an undersized prep prospect who’d need to stay in center field to accrue value. Lee looked like he’d added significant weight by September and was showing an interesting combination of power, patience and the athleticism and arm strength to be a defensive asset in right field.

A terrific athlete, Lee was considered a pitching prospect by many teams in June despite lacking prototypical size. He was sitting in the low 90s with breaking-ball feel this spring. That velocity was somewhat newfound (he was topping out around 90-91 last summer) and teams wondered what more might be in there.

The Royals popped Lee as an outfielder, and he’s showing more raw power now than I thought he would as an amateur hitter. He has a chance for plus raw now, something that would have seemed preposterous to me just nine months ago. He gets to his power in games with an uppercut bat path and is adept at waiting for a pitch he can drive; nevertheless, there are times when Lee doesn’t get one and he strikes out looking quite a bit. That’s troubling when you consider Lee’s bat path inherently has some swing and miss of its own with which he’ll need to deal.

He’s an average runner with a non-zero chance to stick in center field, but based on how quickly Lee’s body has matured I think it’s more likely for him to end up in right. His arm is plus.

He’s eons from the majors but could be an everyday player. Projecting a recent third-rounder as an everyday guy, even with significant risk, is an early sign that KC had a solid draft class for a club that lacked a first-round pick.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 2.8 WAR

khalil-lee-likelihood-of-outcomes

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2014 from UCF
Age 24 Height 6’6 Weight 180 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command
55/55 40/45 50/55 30/40 50/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 6% walk rate in 2016.

Scouting Report
Skoglund has improved the consistency of his arm slot and release point since leaving UCF, resulting in plenty of strike-throwing and more reliable downward movement on his curveball. His low-90s fastball plays up due to extension and plane and he’ll flash an above-average curveball. Skoglund’s changeup is well below average, lacking both movement and proper arm speed, but he’s somewhat able to work his fastball in on right-handed hitters and, if he can either develop his seldom-used slider and learn how to locate it and his curveball effectively against righties, his changeup quality will matter much less.

Skoglund’s sturdy frame, low-effort delivery and strike-throwing ability are promising inning-eater traits. Other than an oblique injury in 2015, he’s had no injuries and there’s never been anything wrong with his arm. He projects as a back-end starter on stuff, more a No. 5 than No. 4, but could accrue extra value due to his ability to handle a heavy workload.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.4 WAR

eric-skoglund-likelihood-of-outcomes-copy

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2013 from Colombia
Age 20 Height 5’11 Weight 175 Bat/Throw L/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/55 45/55 20/40 20/20 40/45 50/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed hilarious .376/.436/.606 at Rookie-level Pioneer League.

Scouting Report
There’s significant work to be done with Viloria, but he’s got a non-zero chance to hit, hit for some power and catch which, though it’s a far-right-tail outcome, make him a potential above-average everyday player. A lot of things need to go right to produce that kind of outcome, but it’s possible as Viloria has good natural hitter’s timing, produces good extension through contact, hits to all fields and is athletic enough to catch.

He’s going to need to keep his body in check. Viloria is large for a 19-year-old and has a high-maintenance build, even for a catcher. He’s already got some horizontal mobility issues but is a promising receiver with an average arm. Some scouts think he needs to maintain the body he already has, while others think he needs to take a proactive approach toward getting leaner.

On the offensive end, it will probably take an adjustment to Viloria’s hands to allow his natural raw power to play at maturity, but he’s hit so well thus far in pro ball that I think it’s best to let him go. Undoubtedly aided by the Pioneer League’s friendly hitting confines this year, Viloria is more of a doubles hitter than homering slugger but, largely because of his timing and above-average bat speed, still projects to have a rare hit/power combo for a catcher if he can stay there. If his body gets to the point where he can’t catch, his value will drop precipitously.

I think there’s a chance for an average defender with an average arm who hits .270 with around a dozen homers. Depending on how his approach develops (his walk rate has declined in each of his pro seasons but has been solid) he could reach base at an above-average clip, too.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.6 WAR

meibrys-viloria-likelihood-of-outcomes

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2009 from Dominican Republic
Age 24 Height 6’2 Weight 180 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/55 50/50 40/45 40/30 40/45 50/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Hit 36 home runs combined in 2015 and 2016 after hitting only 26 combined from 2010 to -14.

Scouting Report
Bonifacio’s calling card has long been his feel for contact which, despite evolving over the last two years, remains the most alluring aspect of his profile. He tracks well, has simple footwork, solid bat control and is short to the ball. His once opposite-field approach has gotten more pull-happy, which has allowed for a more prolific power output over the last two years.

The newfound power is important for Bonifacio’s profile, as he’s limited defensively to a corner-outfield spot. He doesn’t have impact arm strength but has enough to play right field should Kansas City need him to. His body is, at best, maxed out and, at worst, just bad and may continue growing to the point where Bonifacio is a defensive liability into his late 20s.

While Bonifacio’s hit/power combination is almost certainly enough to produce big-league value, it’s still not clear how much there will be. At this year’s Futures Game, Bonifacio was pretty clearly not on the same talent level as his peers at the event. Some scouts have questions about his athleticism and whether or not his swing can sustain success in the big leagues. I believe enough in his eye for the strike zone and ability to hit that I consider him an everyday player, but don’t think the power output will be enough to make him an average or better one.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.7 WAR

jorge-bonifacio-likelihood-of-outcomes-copy

40 FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic
Age 18 Height 6’3 Weight 200 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/45 55/60 30/50 45/40 40/55 60/70

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Tied for Arizona League home-run lead, with eight.

Scouting Report
Youth, power, patience and a chance to play a premium position. Matias has all of these things to varying degrees, and they were especially on display later in the summer and fall after Matias had spent a month in the States. His feel for contact and idea of the strike zone improved dramatically late in the year and continued into instructional league, when he began to tap into his power more often, too.

Matias shares some swing traits with Gilbert Lara which, based on how Lara has largely performed as a pro, makes some AZL onlookers apprehensive about his future. His bat isn’t always in the hitting zone for very long and he doesn’t consistently extend well through contact, which suppresses his power output. The physical ability for plus raw power at peak is clearly in there, and when Matias connects the contact is loud and long.

Defensively, Matias is a fringe-average runner from home to first but has passable range in center field right now because of his stride length. If he adds much more weight, then he’s almost certain to move to right field. Not everyone thinks the body is going to thicken up more than it already has and that there’s a chance he stays in center, but I think right field (where his future 70 arm fits well) is his ultimate destination, and he could be quite good there.

Matias has power projection befitting right field; the question is whether or not he makes enough contact to a get to it. His late-year adjustments are encouraging but he’s likely a long-term project with substantial upside who will need to make heavy adjustments as he moves through the minors.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.9 WAR

seuly-matias-likelihood-of-outcomes

12. Nolan Watson, RHP
Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Lawrence North HS (IN)
Age 20 Height 6’2 Weight 195 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
45/50 50/55 40/50 40/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Was three years younger than average player in Sally League this past season.

Scouting Report
A first-round prep arm from a cold-weather state, Watson has been handed aggressive assignments in each of his two pro seasons and his statistical struggles have masked his No. 4 or 5 starter potential to a degree. He has a solid pitcher’s frame, an unexplosive but repeatable delivery and a promising fastball/curveball combination.

During instructional league, Watson was 90-92 with a fastball that he could manipulate either with sink or cut. His mid-70s curveball is average and could add a half grade with reps. Watson’s changeup is below average but he has a good arm action and the pitch, especially when considering his developmental context, has significant projection. He works down in the zone and his delivery, which is direct to the plate in addition to its repeatability, should allow for plenty of strike-throwing. Watson projects to be a mess of 55s and 50s, which should allow him to pitch at the back of a big-league rotation.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.3 WAR

nolan-watson-likelihood-of-outcomes

13. Jake Junis, RHP
Drafted: 29th Round, 2011 from Rock Falls HS (IL)
Age 24 Height 6’3 Weight 225 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
50/50 50/50 45/50 45/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Increased strikeout rate from 14% to 24% at Double-A between 2015 and -16.

Scouting Report
Junis got a significant overslot deal in the 2011 draft’s 29th round and has pitched his way to Triple-A with middling results. His arm action has improved over the last year, though, and his stuff has ticked up a little bit as a result, giving him a chance to fill in the back of a rotation or in a frequent relief role.

Once mostly 88-92, Junis is bumping 94 with more life than he used to have on his fastball, and his improved arm action has scouts revisiting his changeup projection a bit, though it remains fringey.

Junis has always had solid feel for an average curveball that he locates fairly well, and he has similarly solid average command of his fastball. With the chance for a better changeup suddenly entering the picture, it might be best for Kansas City to let Junis barbecue in Triple-A a while longer where he can get a starter’s reps and work on sequencing it. He’s already 24 and has a limited ceiling but should yield big-league value in some capacity and probably more than I would have thought at this time last year.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.9 WAR

jake-junis-likelihood-of-outcomes-copy

14. Kyle Zimmer, RHP
Drafted: 1st Round, 2012 from San Francisco
Age 25 Height 6’3 Weight 185 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
60/60 60/60 45/50 45/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None. Barely pitched.

Scouting Report
Zimmer was the 2012 draft’s fifth-overall pick and absolutely had a top-of-the-rotation ceiling typically associated with a pick that high. He was huge, well-built, had a multi-sport background (hoops and water polo), athletic parents (both D1 athletes in their day) and was relatively new to pitching full time, as he’d been a third baseman in high school. He also had monster stuff, regularly sitting in the mid-90s and touching 98-99 on occasion while flashing a viable changeup and hammer curve.

Since signing, Zimmer has been hurt. He was shut down in 2013 with shoulder tightness. In 2014, it was a biceps injury, then a lat injury and, in the Fall League, more shoulder tightness. He had a non-reconstructive surgery that offseason to see what was going on in his shoulder, which delayed his start in 2015. He threw just five innings in 2016 after being diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. He is expected to be ready for 2017.

When Zimmer was pitching in between all of that, his stuff and arm acceleration had clearly backed up. At times, his fastball sat 88-91, his curveball had lost its bite and the changeup was playing down because the fastball velo had evaporated. Zimmer has now been injury prone longer than he was a top prospect and it’d be foolhardy to expect the surgery he had to correct TOS to suddenly allow his once promising stuff to return. He’s a wait-and-see prospect at best. At age 25, if even some of Zimmer’s stuff has returned next year it might behoove Kansas City to fast track him as a reliever to try to accrue some sort of value. Managing his workload could help him stay healthy. It’s also a way to get him to the majors before he breaks again, even if it caps his potential value.

15. Samir Duenez, 1B
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Venezuela
Age 21 Height 6’1 Weight 195 Bat/Throw L/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/55 45/50 30/40 30/30 45/50 50/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .283/.336/.438 across three levels and hit in short stint at Double-A as a 20-year-old.

Scouting Report
Duenez moved up this list late in the process when someone uttered the following sentence to me: “If you don’t think Vallot can catch then Duenez belongs ahead of him, because he has the better chance to hit and has already done it at a higher level than Vallot has.” It’s one of those common sense things that are often lost during the list-compilation process. Duenez has sneaky athleticism for his size/body (which aren’t good) and plays a solid first base. He’s twitchy enough that some scouts think he could viably moonlight in an outfield corner. He’s very short to the ball and track pitches well, spraying quality contact to all fields. He lacks prototypical power for first base and it’s difficult to envision him as an average everyday player, but his floor as a Quad-A/low-end regular type of bat is firm because his feel to hit is so advanced. He was added to the 40-man this winter and could see big-league time next summer.

Kansas City has produced several hitters like this in recent years. Kila Ka’aihue and Balbino Fuenmayor spring to mind as two examples. Duenez doesn’t have the name quality or raw power of either of those guys but has a better chance to make consistent contact with big-league pitching.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 4.3 WAR

samir-duenez-likelihood-of-outcomes

Drafted: 1st Round, 2014 from St. Thomas More (LA)
Age 20 Height 6’0 Weight 215 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/40 55/60 40/45 20/20 30/40 45/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Hit 13 homers over just 82 games in 2016.

Scouting Report
If you think Vallot can catch, then he belongs several spots higher on this list. I do not. At just 20, Vallot’s body has already surpassed catching viability, he has fringe raw arm strength and is slow to get out of his crouch which further suppresses his pop times. He’s a below-average receiver, as well.

If Vallot moves out from behind the plate to first base, then his contact rate becomes problematic. He doesn’t recognize offspeed pitches well and his bat isn’t in the hitting zone for very long.

What Vallot does do is create incredible power on contact. His .217 ISO would have ranked No. 1 among MLB qualified catchers this year. He hits lasers to left field and is a hacking, pull-only fly-ball hitter with plus raw power projection. This type of hitter is en vogue at the major-league level right now. Strikeouts are fine as long as you’re hitting fly balls when you do put the ball in play, and extreme pull-only hitters have the best chance to turning those fly balls into homers. If Vallot can somehow stay behind the plate, his bat will profile — potentially in a significant way — but I think those chances are very slim, and even the most extreme cases of this type of hitter can barely profile at first base (see: Carter, Chris)

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.2 WAR

chase-vallot-likelihood-of-outcomes-copy

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2010 from Dominican Republic
Age 24 Height 6’2 Weight 180 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
60/60 50/50 50/50 40/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 42 walked in 60 Triple-A innings.

Scouting Report
Almonte’s stuff had clearly taken a step back this fall relative to my looks in extended spring training, when he was still sitting 94-96 but lacking the secondary stuff that once had many considering him a potential mid-rotation starter. His breaking ball was fringe to average this fall while the changeup was still average. His command hasn’t developed at all, and he likely ends up as a relief piece now whose effectiveness will be determined by how much his secondaries regain as he heads into next spring.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.0 WAR

miguel-almonte-likelihood-of-outcomes-copy

Drafted: 4th Round, 2015 from South Point HS (NC)
Age 20 Height 6’2 Weight 180 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Changeup Splitter Command
45/55 40/45 45/55 40/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Has allowed just two home runs in 65 pro innings.

Scouting Report
Davila was an interesting amateur prospect. His measurables favored projection but his frame was slight and not everyone thinks he’ll fill out. He was carving up North Carolina high-school hitters with a blunt arching curveball that didn’t project to miss bats in pro ball but was a good athlete with a workable delivery and good feel for pitching. Davila was touching 93 by his senior spring and the added velocity began to answer some of the questions scouts had about the velocity projection.

Rather than tweaking his breaking ball in the pros, Davila has focused on changeup usage and early returns are promising. If the body has more to give, he could have an above-average fastball/changeup combo with above-average command and a serviceable change of pace breaking ball. That’s a back-end profile.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.3 WAR

garrett-davila-likelihood-of-outcomes

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic
Age 18 Height 6’2 Weight 180 Bat/Throw S/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/50 30/40 20/40 40/40 40/50 55/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None, spent part of season in DSL and played all year in AZL at age 17.

Scouting Report
Guzman is the heir apparent to Rangers prospect Michael De Leon as the low-level shortstop who has advanced feel for all facets of the game, especially defense, but lacks clear major-league tools. Guzman has solid defensive actions, enough arm strength and arm strength projection to stay on the left side of the infield, and a great internal clock for hosing runners at first. But he’s already a 40 runner at best, doesn’t have obvious physical projection, and lacks the explosive first-step quickness associated with good defensive shortstops.

He has a much better feel for contact and loft from the right side of the plate and could be an above-average hitter at peak there; from the left side, he’s more of a track-and-slap hitter. He projects to hit for below-average game power and has fringey bat speed.

I’ll admit Guzman’s build is somewhat unique and his physical projection is a little foggy to me. There’s a chance he’ll develop in a way that allows for more speed/range that will allow him to play short — or more power that might allow his bat to profile somewhere else. I think Guzman has an outside chance to be a below-average regular. He has terrific makeup.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.2 WAR

jeison-guzman-likelihood-of-outcomes

20. Nicky Lopez, SS
Drafted: 5th Round, 2016 from Creighton
Age 22 Height 5’11 Weight 175 Bat/Throw L/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/50 30/30 20/30 55/55 45/50 60/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded more walks (35) than strikeouts (30) in first exposure to pro ball.

Scouting Report
I see a surprising number of Creighton Blue Jays on my radar, and I think it’s one of the more underrated baseball programs in the country. Lopez hails from Creighton and, while old for the level, he walked more than he struck out in Burlington after signing as a fifth rounder in 2016. He’s a crisp, fundamental shortstop with enough arm for the left side of the infield and the range and body to remain at the position long term. Offensively, Lopez is limited by his size and swing, neither of which is capable of producing very much power or even strong contact. His offensive line may not look as pleasing as it did in 2016 as he moves to the upper levels of the minors, where pitchers will recognize Lopez’s lack of power and pound the zone against him, daring him to do damage. He may also run into trouble against defenses better equipped to deal with a good runner who can put balls into play on the ground. He has a utility ceiling for me, but that may also be his floor.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 2.6 WAR

nicky-lopez-likelihood-of-outcomes

*****

Other Prospects of Note (In Order of Preference)

Ashe Russell, RHP – Kansas City’s first pick in 2015, Russell has always profiled as more of a reliever for me because of his delivery, command profile and complete lack of changeup. But he had special arm strength (touching 97) and a comfortably plus slider. But Russell’s stuff was way down after the draft last year (he was 89-91 for me in the fall) and things never got off the ground this year when he was limited to just two innings before he was shut down. He didn’t even throw during instructional league. It’s been difficult to find out what’s going on here, as KC has been cagey with details both on and off the record.

Alec Mills, RHP, 2.6 KATOH+ WAR – Purely a relief prospect. Mills’ fastball sits 91-94 and he complements it with an average changeup in the low 80s (it lacks plane but does have some run) and an above-average slurve in the upper 70s. He projects as a middle-relief piece but could also be a sixth starter/up-and-down arm, as he does throw enough strikes to start but doesn’t have the pinpoint command to make his stuff play multiple times through the lineup.

Corey Ray, RHP, 0.8 KATOH+ – Ray projects to the bullpen for me, where we might see even more velocity than we already have. Ray was bumping 97 this year and his changeup is flashing plus. I think the combination of deception and velocity will play against righties in a bullpen role, while the changeup will mitigate his platoon issues. He’s already 24 and hasn’t pitched above A-ball yet, so there’s reason to temper expectations, but I think Ray could be in the big leagues next year if he’s moved to the bullpen.

Andrew Edwards, RHP, 1.0 KATOH+ – A hulking righty with mid- to upper-90s stuff, Edwards needs either to improve command of his above-average slider to get the most out of it, or improve the slider to a point where his command of it matters less. For now, it’s a middle-relief profile.

Pedro Fernandez, RHP, 1.2 KATOH+ – Short but stocky and strong, Fernandez will run his moving fastball into the mid-90s. He has a quick and deceptive but violent arm action that limits his command but also allows his potential plus changeup to induce ugly swings. He doesn’t naturally get on top of the baseball at release, and it’s unlikely that Fernandez will develop the breaking ball needed to start, though he has a work-in-progress hard slider. He profiles in relief, where the fastball could play as a consistent 60.

Bubba Starling, CF, 0.3 KATOH+ – Starling is a plus runner who can play center field and has an easy plus arm. He’s going to be a big leaguer in some capacity because of his defense and speed but a complete inability to hit — despite having shown the ability to make mechanical adjustments — is obviously going to limit his value to something approaching replacement level.

Brandon Downes, OF, 0.0 KATOH+ – A favorite of Ringer author Michael Baumann, Downes is a plus runner with an above-average arm and above-average raw power, but he’s more explosive than athletic and doesn’t hit enough to tap into his power in games. He projects as a power-before-hit fourth outfielder, though he’s not the defender Starling is.

Cam Gallagher, C, 1.4 KATOH+ – Gallagher was added to the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 deadline because he’s already a passable defensive major-league catcher. He also has an excellent approach, though he’s a pull-heavy hitter without great bat speed and could be exposed at upper levels. He projects as a low-end MLB backup or third catcher.

D.J. Burt, 2B, 0.0 KATOH+ – Speedy, twitchy and all of 5-foot-8, Burt quietly had a 68-game on-base streak that straddled two seasons and ended in May. He has great range at second base and an average arm. He profiles as a utility man but will need to start branching out defensively as he climbs through the minors. He’s seen time at second and third already.

Sebastian Rivero, C – Rivero has plus makeup and is advanced in all facets of catching, including framing, game-calling, blocking and dealing with runners. He has a small frame, the bat is light, and he’ll need to add mass. The ceiling is as high as the body and bat will take him. Realistically, he’s a backup.

Gabriel Cancel, 2B, 0.6 KATOH+ – A thick-bodied (Carlos Baerga type of frame) second baseman with good natural hitter’s timing, Cancel also has a bat path that produces quality airborne contact. The bat speed is just okay and he’ll need to hit all the way up the ladder because it’s second-base-only.

Marten Gasparini, SS, 0.4 KATOH+ – Gasparini has considerable profile because of his background (he’s Italian and signed for $1.3 million in 2013, the most ever for a European player) and he does have some tools (plus run, future plus arm), but three years into his pro career he remains incredibly raw in all facets of the game and had a hard time staying afloat in the Sally League this year both on offense and defense. He remains a long-term project and is still probably four of five years away at best.

Ricky Aracena, SS, 0.1 KATOH+ – A twitchy little shortstop, Aracena’s legs have already gone backward a bit since he arrived in the States. He has a slash-and-run utility ceiling now.

Luke Farrell, RHP, 2.8 KATOH+ – Big (6-foot-6), smart (Northwestern), tough (has dealt with multiple tumors that required complicated biopsies) with good baseball bloodlines (his father is John Farrell), Luke’s fastball sits 90-92 with downhill plane, he has an average cutter and fringe curveball. He projects as an up-and-down arm without quite enough stuff to crack a full-time rotation spot, though you could argue his pitches have more projection than most 25-year-olds because of the developmental time he missed dealing with his health issues.

Emmanuel Rivera, 3B, 0.7 KATOH+ – A potential plus defender at third, Rivera doesn’t hit enough for a corner.

Oli Nunez, INF – Nunez is a plus-plus runner with a plus arm that can play all over the field, but he may not hit enough even for a bench role in the majors.

Julio Pinto, RHP, 0.3 KATOH+ – Passed over in the Rule 5, Pinto was 88-90 for an inning for me during instructional league and then came out for a second inning and was touching 95. I still have no idea how the hell that happened and I had to check several times to make sure I was watching the same pitcher as the inning before. He has a middle-relief ceiling.

Gerson Garabito, RHP, 0.5 KATOH+ – Garabito has a solid build, a low-90s fastball with average command projection, and good makeup. He has good curveball feel. It’s deep and shapely, could be above average at peak. Garabito’s athletic enough and has a good enough arm action that I think there could be an average changeup at some point. He’s a bit of a long shot but a potential back-end starter.

Kort Peterson, CIF/OF, 0.1 KATOH+ – Peterson has solid feel for the barrel and makes quality contact but lacks prototypical corner power. He has a chance to hit his way onto a roster as a bench bat

Foster Griffin, LHP, 1.0 KATOH+ – Mentioned here purely in case someone asks about him in the comments, Griffin was 86-89 for me mid-year with below average command and secondary stuff. He was shelled. Pitchability prospects have very little margin for error and if either their stuff backs up or their command does, they often flounder. Griffin saw both decline in 2016. He’s still young, so the book isn’t entirely closed here but the plot isn’t moving in an encouraging direction.

Cistulli’s Guy
Selected by Carson Cistulli from any player who received less than a 40 FV.

Corey Ray, RHP, 0.8 KATOH+

Left-hander Matt Strahm made multiple appearances among the author’s weekly Fringe Five lists in 2015 and -16 on the strength of strong minor-league indicators and slightly above-average arm speed. Now, after acquitting himself well in the majors, he receives the distinction of Kansas City’s top-overall prospect.

Ray’s a candidate to follow a similar path. As noted by Longenhagen above, the velocity is encouraging: after having generally thrown in low 90s, Ray was reportedly throwing his fastball in the 94-97 range at midseason.

Whether owing to the bump in velocity or greater refinement of his repertoire, Ray was dominant at the end of the season. Having recorded mostly pedestrian indicators as a professional, he produced strikeout and walk rates of 37.3% and 6.0%, respectively, over his last three starts and 17.0 innings.

*****

System Overview

This is one of the weaker farm systems in baseball right now. The potential upside in the lower levels rests with Matias and (to a lesser degree) Lee and Guzman but this system is largely comprised of relievers, back end starters and hitters with utility profiles. If not for some of the recent trades we’d be talking about how this system is weak because of recent graduations to the Majors. Of course, those former prospects were traded as a means to an end, one that is undoubtedly worthy. With several big name Royals in their contract year, this list could look very different in a few months.

We hoped you liked reading Top 20 Prospects: Kansas City Royals by Eric Longenhagen!

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Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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LHPSU
Member
LHPSU

The Hunter Dozier KATOH graph is seriously weird. And I must say I find Matt Strahms’ KATOH likelihood of outcomes unlikely – does the system not take into account the 22 innings of MLB ball last year?

Will Hannon
Member
Member
Will Hannon

It does take that into account – it also takes into account that he missed nearly two seasons with TJ and there just were not many comparable minor league careers that showed much success in the majors.

Jorge Fabregas
Member
Member
Jorge Fabregas

I think the point is that he can’t have a chance at “No MLB” since he’s played in MLB. It is a minor league projection system, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t take MLB action into account.

LHPSU
Member
LHPSU

It’s no additional MLB WAR, which I know. I just find it extremely unlikely that a player who just put together 22 outstanding MLB innings would not have any future value.