Kansas City Royals 2014 Top 15 Prospects

Feb 21, 2013; Surprise, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals shortstop Christian Colon (72) poses for a picture during photo day at the Royals Spring Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

For years, the Kansas City Royals were known for their farm system, consistently ranking among the top two or three farm systems in baseball. Many of the prospects in those systems have since graduated or been traded, but Kansas City is still well stocked in the minor leagues. With a pair of elite arms at the top, and a wealth of high upside talent in the low minors, the KC system is still among the top ten in all of baseball. Here are just the top 15 members of it. Special Thanks to David Hill, Co-Editor of the Royals blog, Kings of Kaufman for his invaluable aid in the completion of this list.

The Royals’ minor league teams are as follows

Triple-A: Omaha Storm Chasers (Pacific Coast League)
Double-A: Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Texas League)
High-A: Wilmington Blue Rocks (Carolina League)
Class-A: Lexington Legends (South Atlantic League)
Short-Season A: Burlington Royals (Applachian League League)
Advanced-Rookie: Idaho Falls Chukars (Pioneer League)
Complex-Rookie: AZL Red Sox (Arizona League)

#15

Cameron Gallagher – C
Date of Birth: June 6, 1990
Height/Weight: 6’11″/210 lbs
Acquired: 2nd round of the 2011 draft

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPSTBGDPHBP
201320LexingtonSALLAKCR662562221947150218002428.212.302.306.6086866
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/19/2013.


Analysis:
How does a 20 year old catcher who hit .212 and showed no plate discipline or power last season wind up on a top 15 prospect list? Potential. Gallagher had been a well regarded prospect out of high school, getting an over-slot bonus in the second round of 2011, and has all the tools – glove and arm behind the plate, and potential to hit for both average and power – to succeed long term. But the young backstop has struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness since he became a professional, missing most of 2012 and half of 2013, and not looking particularly impressive when on the field. At 21, he still has ample opportunity to develop and show his meddle, but eventually the results will have to meet the projections. 

2014 Prognosis: He’ll repeat Class-A next season, with a chance to make High-A Wilmington with some early season success.

#14

Sam Selman LHP
Date of Birth: November 14, 1990
Height/Weight: 6’3″/165 lbs
Acquired: 2nd round of the 2012 draft

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffWLW-L%ERAGGSIPHRERHRBBIBBSOHBPBKWPBFWHIPH/9HR/9BB/9SO/9SO/BB
201322WilmingtonCARLA+KCR119.5503.382727125.18863473850128142125551.3806.30.26.19.21.51
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/19/2013.


Analysis:
The good: 3.38 ERA, 9.2 K/9 in his first full season. The bad: 6.1 BB/9. Selman can miss some bats with his low to mid-90’s fastball and above average slider, but not enough to compensate long term for that level of wildness. He was able to be erratic and get by in High-A, but in the upper levels, hitters will simply lay off if he can’t hit the strike zone. The results would be devastating and unless improves his command, a move to the bullpen will have to be implemented.

2014 Prognosis: With his control issues, he’s liable to be eaten alive in Double-A, so I would expect him to repeat High-A

#13 

 Christian Colon 2B/SS
Date of Birth: May 14, 1989
Height/Weight: 5’10″/185 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (4th overall) of the 2010 draft

YearAgeTmLgLevAffGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPSTBGDPHBP
201324OmahaPCLAAAKCR1315775127214012312581544157.273.335.379.713194167
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/19/2013.


Analysis:
Colon is fairly underwhelming for a former fourth overall pick. The now 24 year old middle infielder was supposed to be reach the majors and hit .280-.300 there shortly after being drafted but he ran into a wall in the minor leagues, hitting .257 in 2011, his first full professional season. His .274 average and .335 on base are fairly consistent with his career minor league numbers and what he’s liable to produce in the majors, while the 12 home run power is a surprise and probably the ceiling for the light hitting Colon. His biggest asset is that while he doesn’t walk at a particularly exceptional rate, he doesn’t strike out either, with his 9% k standing at less than one half the big league average. 

2014 Prognosis: He’ll start the year in AAA but could make the majors at any point as a back up infielder. 

#12

Orlando Calixte SS
Date of Birth: February 3, 1992
Height/Weight: 5’11″/160 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPSTBGDPHBP
201321Northwest ArkansasTLAAKCR12353648459121254836141142131.250.312.368.680178153
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/19/2013.


Analysis:
There’s a saying in the baseball community of the Dominican Republic, “you don’t walk off the island.” Orlando Calixte has clearly taken this to heart, as evidenced by his meager 42 walks and a .312 OBP last year. The free swinging approach has also led to his high strikeout totals – 131 this year, just under one strikeout for every four plate appearances. Still, Calixte has the tools and potential that merited him a million dollar signing bonus in 2009. He is a slick fielder with wide range, although he needs to learn how to make the routine play, and despite the meager home run totals, scouts like Jonathan Mayo project him for above average power. 

2014 Prognosis: He will return to Double-A next season, where hopefully he’ll have better success channeling his tools into success at the plate.

#11

Cheslor Cuthbert – 3B
Date of Birth: November 16, 1992
Height/Weight: 6’1″/190 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPSTBGDPHBP
2013202 Teams2 LgsAA-A+KCR12451846257114372859644788.247.316.387.703179142
201320WilmingtonCARLA+KCR602542253263212231122737.280.354.418.7729480
201320Northwest ArkansasTLAAKCR642642372551160628522051.215.279.359.6378562
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/19/2013.


Analysis:
Scouts love Cuthbert’s tools, with John Sickels giving him a chance to hit for above average power with a high on base percentage, while also playing at least average defense at the hot corner. The problem for Cuthbert, and the reason for his statistical struggles thus far is that the Royals have been way too aggressive with him. He played as the youngest player in the Carolina League in 2012 and was one of the youngest in the Texas League this past season. He was clearly not ready for High-A two seasons ago, having posted a .296 OBP there, and he wasn’t ready for Double-A in 2013, as he fumbled to a .215 average and a .279 OBP. 

2014 Prognosis: Cuthbert will undoubtedly start next season as one of the youngest players in Double-A, and while he probably should spend the whole year, the Royals have aggressively promoted him in the past.

Nov 2, 2013; Surprise, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals outfielder Jorge Bonifacio against the East during the Fall Stars Game at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

#10

Elier Hernandez – OF
Date of Birth: November 21, 1994
Height/Weight: 6’3″/200 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPSTBGDPHBP
201318Idaho FallsPIONRkKCR663192894487158344921862.301.350.439.79012776
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/19/2013.


Analysis: After receiving a three million dollar bonus out of the Dominican Republic, Elier Hernandez impressed with a .790 OPS in his second season in rookie ball. At 18, he’s still years away from the majors and a lot can go wrong between then and now, but the aforementioned bonus and his placement on this list should tell you what scouts think of his tools. He profiles as a decent right fielder, with prolific bat speed, a line-drive swing and the potential forabove average power, which he began to show bits of last year.

2014 Prognosis: Having already played well in half-season rookie ball, he could start next year as one of the youngest players in full season Class-A. 

#9

Miguel Almonte – RHP
Date of Birth: April 4, 1993
Height/Weight: 6’2″/180 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffWLW-L%ERAGGSCGIPHRERHRBBIBBSOHBPBKWPBFWHIPH/9HR/9BB/9SO/9SO/BB
201320LexingtonSALLAKCR69.4003.1025251130.21155345636013272105351.1567.90.42.59.13.67
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/19/2013.


Analysis:
Most top young pitching prospects have exceptional stuff but struggle with command and learning precisely how to pitch. Almonte, by contrast, has superb command and pitchability but, aside from a mid 90’s fastball, throws only average offerings. He dominated the rookie leagues to the tune of 1.75 ERA in 2012 and was good across the board in 2013, with a 3.10 ERA, 1.156 WHIP, 9.1 K/9, and 2.5 BB/9 over 130.2 IP. 

2014 Prognosis: Almonte will move up to High-A, where his command and poise should allow him to succeed and possibly reach  Double-A before season’s end.

#8

Bubba Starling – OF
Date of Birth: August 3, 1992
Height/Weight: 6’4″/180 lbs
Acquired: First round (5th overall) of 2011 draft

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPSTBGDPHBP
201320LexingtonSALLAKCR12549843551105214136322353128.241.329.398.72717386
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/19/2013.


Analysis:
Starling has all the raw talent in the world, with the capacity to hit for average and power, steal bases, and play an exceptional center field, but right now most of that talent is sitting as untapped potential. He simply looked overmatched in Class-A Lexington last season, failing to hit for power (only 13 home runs and .398 SLG), average (.241), or even get on base (.329). That being said, this was somewhat expected of Starling, whom scouts knew would take years to develop since he was drafted in 2011. Royals management and fans should be patient with the young centerfielder, whose ceiling could be as MVP caliber player, but another year like 2013 would cast serious doubt on if he’ll ever even scrape that ceiling. 

2014 Prognosis: Starling’s statistical performance last year clearly indicates that he is not ready to be promoted. He will start next season in Class-A Lexington, where I would expect his results to finally be somewhat commensurate to his tools.

#7

Hunter Dozier – 3B/SS

Date of Birth: August 22, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’4″/220 lbs
Acquired: First round (8th overall) of the 2013 draft

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPSTBGDPHBP
2013212 Teams2 LgsRk-AKCR693172734984300752313837.308.397.495.89213534
201321LexingtonSALLAKCR15595561860090035.327.373.436.8092411
201321Idaho FallsPIONRkKCR542582184366240743313532.303.403.509.91211123
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/19/2013.


Analysis: The Royals surprised a lot of people when they took Dozier with the 8th overall pick in last season’s draft, but Kansas City’s newest prospect performed well both at the plate and in the field after being taken. The .308/.397/.495 stat line is impressive, but the fact that he walked more than he struck out is even more noteworthy and is a testament to his disciplined approach at the plate. Dozier played shortstop in college but shifted over to third after the draft, and he should have the skills to remain their long term. 

2014 Prognosis: Dozier primarily in the rookie Pioneer League after being drafted last year, but played well there and in a short stint in the Class-A Sally League, so I would expect him to start next season in High-A. A college draft pick, he could move quickly from there.

#6

Jason Adam – RHP
Date of Birth: August 4, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’4″/219 lbs
Acquired: Fifth round of the 2010 draft

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffWLW-L%ERAGGSIPHRERHRBBIBBSOHBPBKWPBFWHIPH/9HR/9BB/9SO/9SO/BB
201321Northwest ArkansasTLAAKCR811.4215.192626144.015398831254112615186371.4389.60.83.47.92.33
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/19/2013.


Analysis:
Adam was a high-bonus high school draft pick and is on this list more for raw potential than performance.At 6’4 and 219 lbs, he has a pitchers frame and sits at 93 with a decent curve and a changeup that’s coming along – the makings of a number three starter. The results have been inconsistent, however, as he posted a 4.23 ERA in his first professional season, a 3.53 in the next, and a 5.19 this past one. He’s a bit better than his 2013 numbers indicate, as at 21, he was young for Double-A, at 3.97, his FIP was much more respectable than his ERA, and his 7.9 K/9 was actually the highest of his career. 

2014 Prognosis: Adam will repeat Double-A next season, and his solid peripherals should yield better results.

Jul 14, 2013; Flushing , NY, USA; World pitcher Yordano Ventura throws a pitch during the 2013 All Star Futures Game at Citi Field. USA defeated World 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

#5

Sean Manaea – LHP
Date of Birth: February 1, 1992
Height/Weight: 6’5″/235 lbs
Acquired: Competitive Balance Round A (34th overall) of the 2013 draft

2013 Stats: Has Not Pitched Professionally

Analysis: Manea was a candidate for the first overall pick in last year’s draft before a hip injury allowed him to drop all the way to the 34th spot, where the Royals picked him up. If healthy, Manea is a scout’s dream – a healthy sized lefty with good command of a mid-90’s fastball, a plus slurve, and an above average change up. But he fell out of the first round of the draft for a reason and nothing can be more frustrating than a talented player who just can’t stay off the disabled list. 

2014 Prognosis:  Manea is fairly developed at this point so he will start his first professional season in High-A, and could reach Double or even Triple-A if he stays healthy.

#4

Jorge Bonifacio – OF
Date of Birth: June 4, 1993
Height/Weight: 6’1″/192 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPSTBGDPHBP
2013203 Teams3 LgsA+-AA-RkKCR883743295198215454333869.298.372.429.80014143
201320RoyalsARIZRkKCR935304932061046.300.400.533.9331611
201320WilmingtonCARLA+KCR542342063261113229022340.296.368.408.7758422
201320Northwest ArkansasTLAAKCR2510593152870219211123.301.371.441.8124110
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/19/2013.


Analysis:
Few players reach Double-A just two months after their 20th birthday, but Bonifacio did and actually played well once he was there. His .301/.371/.441 was an across the board improvement over his stat line in Double-A, although the sample size is admittedly small at just 25 games. Most impressively, Bonifacio walks a lot, with a 10% walk rate last year (MLB average is 8.5%). He has the arm to play right field and while he only hit two home runs last season, he has the capacity for at least 20 homer power.

2014 Prognosis:  Bonifacio will start next season at Double-A, but could be one of the youngest players at Triple-A before long.

#3

Raul (Adalberto) Mondesi – SS
Date of Birth: June 27, 1995
Height/Weight: 6’1″/165 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPSTBGDPHBP
201317LexingtonSALLAKCR12553648261126137747241034118.261.311.361.67217452
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/19/2013.


Analysis:
Like Starling, Mondesi has all the potential in the world. He is an excellent fielder at short and has the potential for high averages and 15 home run seasons at the plate. While the statistics may not seem all that impressive, its important to remember that at 17, he was one of the youngest players in full season ball last year. Mondesi is a boom or bust prospect, though. He’s years away, though, and just a couple wrong turns or poor seasons could halt his career before he even reaches Double-A.

2014 Prognosis: Only 18, he’ll probably spend the entirety of next season in Class-A Lexington.

#2 

Yordano Ventura – RHP
Date of Birth: June 3, 1991
Height/Weight: 5’11″/180 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffWLW-L%ERAGGSIPHRERHRBBIBBSOHBPBKWPBFWHIPH/9HR/9BB/9SO/9SO/BB
2013222 Teams2 LgsAAA-AAKCR86.5713.142625134.2119524775311557375641.2778.00.53.510.42.92
201322Northwest ArkansasTLAAKCR32.6002.34111157.23917153200744222301.0236.10.53.111.53.70
201322OmahaPCLAAAKCR54.5563.74151477.08035324331813153341.4689.40.53.99.52.45
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/19/2013.
YearAgeTmLgWLW-L%ERAGGSIPHRERHRBBIBBSOHBPBKWPBFERA+WHIPH/9HR/9BB/9SO/9SO/BBAwards
201322KCRAL01.0003.523315.1136636011001641201.2397.61.83.56.51.83
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/19/2013.


Analysis:
Starters who can regularly hit 100 MPH don’t come around too often, which is what makes Ventura so exciting. In a fifteen inning stint with Kansas City last year, the 22 year old righthander averaged 97.5 MPH with his fastball. That’s .2 MPH faster than Stephen Strasburg has ever averaged in a season. Ventura mixes in a hammer curve that can be devastating when its working and his changeup has the potential to be an average third pitch. As with most flamethrowers, he misses bats (9.5 k/9 in AAA last season) but can struggle with his command (3.9 BB/9). The Royals will try him as a starter, and he has a very good chance of sticking, but the bullpen could wind up as his final destination. 

2014 Prognosis: Ventura has a chance to grab a rotation spot out of spring training, although he could wind up either in the bullpen or Triple-A if he doesn’t. If he does start consistently, he has a shot to contend for rookie of the year.

#1

Kyle Zimmer – RHP
Date of Birth: September 13, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’3″/215 lbs
Acquired: First round (5th overall) of 2012 draft

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffWLW-L%ERAGGSCGSHOIPHRERHRBBIBBSOHBPWPBFWHIPH/9HR/9BB/9SO/9SO/BB
2013212 Teams2 LgsA+-AAKCR69.4004.32222211108.191585211360140554541.1727.60.93.011.63.89
201321WilmingtonCARLA+KCR48.3334.8218181189.28054489310113353791.2388.00.93.111.33.65
201321Northwest ArkansasTLAAKCR21.6671.93440018.211442502720750.8575.31.02.413.05.40
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/19/2013.


Analysis:
Zimmer’s 4.82 ERA in the minors last year can be very deceiving. His peripherals were exactly what you would expect of a fifth overall pick – 3.1 BB/9, 11.3 SO/9 – and his FIP was a much more impressive 3.12. He also improved when he was promoted to Double-A, pitching to a 1.93 ERA and striking out 13 batters per nine over four short starts. Scouts are also willing to overlook his stats because of he has some of the best pure stuff in the minors, with a darting mid-90’s fastball and three offspeed pitches that could all be above average before long.

2014 Prognosis: Zimmer will start next season in Double-A, where his stuff and past peripherals should lead to success. With some success, he could be in the major leagues by August.