Top 5 Prospects for 2015: Kansas City Royals

This 30-part series will look at the projected Top 5 freshman contributors for each big league club for the year ahead. The rankings take into consideration a mixture of ceiling, readiness and potential playing time allocation, which is to say some players with lower ceilings may be ranked ahead of others with higher ceilings because they project to have a greater impact in the coming season.

In a Nutshell: The Royals were a surprise team in 2014 but they have the talent coming up through the pipeline to help them sustain that success and avoid becoming “one-year wonders.” The young pitching depth is especially impressive.

The Top 5 Freshman for 2015

1. Brandon Finnegan, LHP: This young lefty went from college student to first round draft pick to MLB playoff pitcher in the span of a few months. Despite his success in 2014, Finnegan is earmarked for the minors to open the 2015 season after the additions of the likes of Kris Medlen and Edinson Volquez. It’s possible that the southpaw will earn a big league bullpen role but he has the potential to develop into a mid-rotation starter. Keeping him stretched out in the minors would allow him to serve as the first man up in the event of an injury to the Top 5.

2. Sean Manaea, LHP: The Royals have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to near-MLB-ready southpaw prospects. Manaea might have a slightly higher ceiling than Brandon Finnegan but he’s not quite as polished at this point. Selected 34th overall in the 2013 draft, he spent all of ’14 in High-A ball and should open the new season in Double-A. He had some health issues prior to turning pro but he looks OK now after throwing 121.2 innings last year and now simply needs to polish his command to help realize his full potential.

3. Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B: Former first round pick Mike Moustakas’ career has been a disappointment to this point so the development of Cuthbert could finally put a nail in the incumbent’s coffin in 2015. The third base prospect split 2014 between Double-A and Triple-A while posting respectable numbers. A native of a very small island, he’s still quite raw at 22 years old so there may still be a lot more in the tank than we’ve seen. After another half season in the minors, and with continued struggles from Moustakas, the club may want to explore the cheaper option.

4. Christian Binford, RHP: Binford doesn’t have “wow” stuff but he mixes his pitches well and shows above-average command/control. A former 30th round pick out of high school, the righty reached Triple-A in just his third pro season. He should open the 2015 back at that same level with an eye to making his big league debut in the second half of the year. He has the ceiling of a No. 4 starter and should chew up innings after pitching more than 135 each of the past two seasons.

5. Kyle Zimmer, RHP: Zimmer would likely already be pitching at the big league level if it weren’t for injuries. He underwent serious shoulder surgery late last year but should be ready to pitch again at some point in April. He’ll likely spend a significant amount of time at the Double-A level in first half of the year with an eye on pushing past some of the other young pitchers to receive a big league promotion later this year. He has the ceiling of a No. 2 starter or a high-leverage reliever if he bounces back from the surgery.





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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dwezilwoffa
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dwezilwoffa

Other than Crow and Hoch, have the Royals developed a starting pitching prospect that didn’t have arm surgery. Thanks for the recap.

WanderOverYonder
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WanderOverYonder

Greg Holland? Grienke? Herrera?