A Minor Review of 2016: Kansas City Royals

Welcome to the annual series that provides both a review of your favorite teams’ 2016 season, as well as an early look toward 2017. It also serves as a helpful guide for keeper and dynasty leagues.

The Graduate: Raul Adalberto Mondesi (SS): Injuries wreaked havoc on the Royals in 2016 and it forced the club to promote Mondesi earlier than planned. His minor league numbers certainly didn’t scream out for promotion. He struggled with strikeouts at every level of the minors and didn’t hit anything like even an average player until the 2016 season (in limited at-bats). He has some pop — which didn’t play in his MLB debut — and some speed so there are things to like but he’s going to need to make more contact and get on base more consistently to be more than a bottom-of-the-order hitter. He has a shot at breaking camp with the Royals in 2017 as their second baseman but, really, he needs some more minor league seasoning.

The Riser: Matt Strahm (LHP): I don’t usually write about risers who have made their MLB debuts already but Strahm is a special case. He absolutely came out of nowhere in 2016 to fly through the minors and reach The Show. Originally a 21st round selection (2012), the lefty missed significant playing time to Tommy John surgery but came back stronger than ever. He pitched mostly as a starter in the minors in 2016 but came out of the bullpen as a big leaguer. Strahm, 25, has an excellent one-two punch in his heater and curveball but the changeup is a little light so he might be better off as a reliever long term. It will be interesting to see if he makes the big league club as a reliever out of the spring, or if he’s sent back to the minors to build his arm back up to start.

The Tumbler: Nolan Watson (RHP): It was an ugly year for the Royals’ highly-drafted arms, and Watson — the club’s first pick from 2015 — had perhaps the worst season from a results standpoint. He posted a 7.57 ERA in 96.1 innings (24 starts). His main problem was allowing too many base runners — including 125 hits and 44 walks. He also didn’t miss many bats (5.61 K/9). The biggest positive: he’s still only 19 so he lots of time to iron out the wrinkles… and he’ll likely do that by repeating low-A ball in 2017. He’ll look to regain some zip on his heater after losing some miles per hour upon moving to a more regular pitching schedule, and also to improve the command of his secondary offerings.

The ’16 Draft Pick: Khalil Lee (OF): Lee has a polarizing prospect entering the draft. Some teams preferred him as a southpaw hurler (who could throw 92-94 mph) while others liked his athleticism in the field. The Royals chose the latter option and he showed a lot of potential in his debut. The 33 walks in 49 games definitely stands out for someone who didn’t focus solely on hitting as an amateur. He also showed some good pop with 21 of his 49 hits going for extra base hits. Given his age (just 18), he’ll likely open the year in extended spring training before being signed to a competitive league in June but Lee could quickly rise up the prospect charts and develop into a real steal as a former third round pick.

The Lottery Ticket: Meibrys Viloria (C): The Royals have a couple of interesting catching prospects in their system in Chase Vallot and Viloria. The latter prospect hit very well in a very good hitter’s league in 2016 but scouts reportedly saw a lot to like in his swing and approach. He got a lot strong between ’15 and ’16 and ended up with 34 of his 85 hits going for doubles or home runs. He also kept the strikeouts to a minimum and took some walks. Defensively, he shows enough potential to project as a future catcher at the big league level. Look for him to move up to full-season ball for the first time in 2017 and look to continue to hit for some power while producing solid walk and strikeout rates.

We hoped you liked reading A Minor Review of 2016: Kansas City Royals by Marc Hulet!

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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