A strong 2018 draft significantly improved the Royals system – which was light on arms. The focus on college arms gives the system a much needed rebalancing and should allow some prospects to move quickly. The Royals previously focused on raw, toolsy hitters and pitchers but just haven’t been able to find a winning formula for developing those types of players.
1. Brady Singer | RHP | DNP —> Those who believe in Singer, sees a top-of-the-rotation arm with the potential for three solid offerings. His fastball works in the mid-to-upper 90s and both his slider and changeup flash potential at times but are inconsistent. He also has the strong frame necessary to be an innings-eater but there are some minor injury concerns given his heavy college workload and a failed physical that wiped out an agreement the Jays had with Singer when he was drafted out of high school.
2. Jackson Kowar | RHP | A —> Kowar has an excellent fastball-changeup combo and an excellent pitchers frame. His breaking ball(s) needs improvement to be an average offering. A tall, thin pitcher, Kowar the makings of an excellent pitcher’s frame once he adds a little more weight/muscle. There is mid-rotation potential here — especially if he continues to mature and add some ticks to his heater while ironing out the breaking ball.
3. Khalil Lee | OF | AA —> A former two-way player in high school, Lee is efficiently polishing his five-tool skill set now that he’s a full-time hitter. He swings and misses too much (101 Ks in 98 games) but he takes lots of walks and is a threat to steal a base. He doesn’t hit for much power right now but there is double-digit homer potential. He also shows the potential for plus defence in center field.
4. M.J. Melendez | C | A —> Just 19 in low-A, Melendez has struggled to make consistent contact at the plate with 102 strikeouts in 308 at-bats. However, he shows excellent power potential for a catcher and has the defensive skills to develop into a plus defender with a very strong arm. There is risk here due to the Ks but there is also a high ceiling.
5. Nicky Lopez | MIF | AAA —> A diminutive baseball player, Lopez possesses very little pop but he knows how to hit. The 2016 fifth rounder has zoomed through the minors and is MLB ready. Splitting the year between double-A and triple-A, he’s hitting .330 with a BB-K of 47-37. He also has enough speed and skill to steal 15-20 bases while playing solid defence up the middle.
6. Nick Pratto | 1B | A —> Considered an advanced prep bat when he went to the Royals in the first round of the 2017 draft, Pratto has nonetheless struggled a but in his first full pro season. He’s struck out 114 times in 93 games and is hitting just .250. On the plus side, he’s taken some walks and shows a willingness to take a walk. He’s also displayed gap pop (which should eventually turn into more homers), is a smart base runner and a good fielder. And he’s just 19 so there is lots of time for him to develop.
7. Daniel Lynch | LHP | A —> A tall, thin pitcher with room to add more muscle/weight, Lynch is an advanced left-handed starter who should move quite quickly through the minors due to his solid feel for pitching and excellent control. He’s had a solid pro debut so far by limiting walks, missing bats and inducing ground balls. He has the makings of a solid No. 4 starter, and his stuff will likely play up thanks to his long levers which make his stuff appear faster than it is.
8. Carlos Hernandez | RHP | A —> I’m a big fan of Hernandez who, at 21, stands 6-4 and has the frame and solid delivery to be an innings-eater for the Royals. He can dial his heater up into the upper-90s and has a potentially-plus changeup. It’s the breaking ball that will ultimately help determine his future role, though. He’s shown good control (23 walks in 72.1 innings) and has done a good job of keeping the ball in the park.
9. Josh Staumont | RHP | AAA —> Staumont possesses a nasty fastball-curveball combination but could never throw enough strikes or master a changeup to stick in the starting rotation. His control is still a work-in-progress as witnessed by his 41 walks in 57 innings, but if he get a little better there he could develop into a high-leverage reliever. Right now, he projects as more of a sixth or seventh-inning arm.
10. Seuly Matias | OF | A —> Matias is what’s wrong with young hitters in recent years. He has lots of raw power but the organization has allowed him to chase the homers rather than focus on developing pitch recognition or an improved approach at the plate. Yes, the 30 home runs is cool (I guess) for a 19-year-old who has managed just 68 hits overall but there is no way this approach works at upper levels so all his tools will go to waste unless he reigns it in. The 22-119 BB-K in just 83 games is startling.
Kris Bubic | LHP | R —> Bubic is a strong-bodied lefty that could develop into a solid, back-end innings-eater for the Royals. He has an outstanding changeup but needs to improve his breaking ball. He can dial up his heater into the mid-90s but works more in the low-90s, so if the starting gig doesn’t work out he might be able to sustain his heat better as a reliever.
Emmanuel Rivera | 3B | A+ —> Rivera has the potential to be a plus defender at the hot corner and possesses a strong arm. He makes excellent contact, doesn’t strike out much, and has a line-drive approach. He could eventually add more pop.
Yefri Del Rosario | RHP | A —> Just 18, Del Rosario is holding his own in nine low-A starts. His 19-43 BB-K in 43 innings also shows promise, although it would be nice to see him induce a few more ground balls. The right-hander has a mid-90s fastball and a promising slider. The changeup development will help determine if he sticks as a long-term starter.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.