Kansas City Royals 2019 Top 10 Prospects Chat
Bill Mitchell: Hello to the many Royals fans out there ready to chat about their much improved farm system. It's my second year documenting this system and I've had a really great time doing all of the research on their prospects. We aren't scheduled to start for another 20 minutes, but there are already lots of questions in the queue and I'm ready so let's get rolling.
- Thoughts on Brewer Hicklen? One of the most freakish athletes I can remember Royals having in a long time!
Bill Mitchell: Jeff, I'm sure you saw a lot of Hicklen both on the diamond and on the gridiron during his college days at UAB. You're right about Hicklen's athleticism and what is even better is his outstanding makeup. He's a vocal leader on the field and works to inspire his teammates. It was a nice first full season for the 22-year-old outfielder who split his time between Lexington and Wilmington. He's still a little behind the curve on baseball skills because of his time playing football, but he's making good progress both at the plate and in the outfield. We're still finalizing the list of 30 players that will make the cut for the Prospect Handbook, but I can guarantee you that Hicklen will be there.
Danny (Richmond VA):
- What are your thoughts on Richard Lovelady? Do you seem him as potentially an impact relief arm this year?
Bill Mitchell: Lovelady is a lefty reliever who won't be limited to being just a lefty-on-lefty bullpen arm. While his velo was down just a bit in his season at Omaha, it didn't reduce his effectiveness because of the life and movement on his pitches as well as the extension he gets off the mound. He gives batters really uncomfortable at-bats. If the Royals hadn't been in a rebuilding year and had been contending for the post-season, I believe you would have seen Lovelady in KC this past season. With that said, he's got a good chance at being in the Royals bullpen next year.
Fabio (Riverside Ca):
- Blewett and Leblanc are doing great in the fall league. How close were they to the top ten? Are they on the radar?
Bill Mitchell: Scott Blewett has had a very good AFL season and has opened some eyes with the way he's pitched here. You'll see that he's close to the top ten when the Prospect Handbook arrives in your mailbox this winter. Dropping out of the top ten had more to do with the influx of talent to the organization than any reflection on Blewett's prospect status. As for Leblanc, I assume you are referring to the Texas Rangers infielder Charles Leblanc who is Blewett's AFL teammate with the Surprise Saguaros. I'm not researching the Rangers system, but I doubt that he's close to their top ten.
- Okay you know we Kansans HAVE to ask about our local boy Bubba Starling. Is this the year he gets a cup of coffee in the bigs??? Or is a change-of-scenery coming?
Bill Mitchell: Bubba has to 1) stay healthy for a full year, something he hasn't done for much of his pro career, and 2) prove that he can hit at the major league level. Quite frankly, his name doesn't come up in discussing Royals prospects, but he's still on the 40-man roster and he's a very good defensive outfielder. I wouldn't rule out the possibility of him getting to KC at some point, but let's see if he can stay healthy first.
- What kind of voodoo did the Royals' brass do to the other teams in order to land Singer, Lynch, and Kowar? But seriously, why did these guys last so long in the draft? Why did Singer fall SO far?
Bill Mitchell: Clayton, having three first round picks certainly factored into the Royals being able to get these very talented college pitchers. Lynch is the real sleeper here, as his velocity went up late in his college career and he maintained it in his pro debut, and his stuff overall was better. He's a great example of both scouting and player development clicking. The fact that Singer and Kowar both dropped further than expected was a surprise. Going into the draft there was some skepticism about Singer's ability to pitch in the rotation because of his arm slot and primarily two-pitch mix in college. Regardless, the Royals are extremely pleased with what they got in the first round.
Jack (South Side Chicago):
- What's a realistic ETA for Singer and Kowar to arrive in Kansas City? Is 2020 too optimistic?
Bill Mitchell: Perhaps closer to the end of the 2020 season, with 2021 being a more realistic estimate for when they both make it to the big leagues. Keep in mind that Singer has yet to pitch a professional inning in an official game and Kowar got just 26 innings under his belt. There's no reason for either pitcher to be rushed.
- With Kyler Murray tearing up the NCAA and likely heading for the NFL draft, do you think the A's are kicking themselves for passing on Singer in order to gamble on Murray?
Bill Mitchell: Moe, this is a better question to save for later this off-season when the Athletics top ten list is posted. I just don't have enough info on Murray's agreement with the A's. While my memory of draft day rumors is getting hazy, I do recall some speculation that the A's were linked to HS third baseman Nolan Gorman who had an outstanding pro debut in the Cardinals organization. But please ask this question again when the Oakland top ten goes online.
- With Mj Melendez coming soon, what is the situation going to be with him and Salvador Perez? Do you think Perez is trade bait for the rebuild?
Bill Mitchell: Rich, thanks for the question. MJ is still a few years away and teams always need plenty of catching depth so that having both on the roster probably wouldn't be an issue. I was about to answer that Salvy would be getting nearer to the end of his career by then, but then realized that he's still only 28. It just seems that he's been around forever and should be older. I've seen speculation that Perez could be dealt to help the rebuild but I really don't know what the Royals have in mind. I'm struggling to imagine a Royals team without Salvy behind the plate.
Ashe Russell (The land of lost prospects):
- Am I ever coming back to play baseball again? And why exactly did I leave in the first place?
Bill Mitchell: I know not to ask my sources about Russell, the one-time 1st round pick who hasn't pitched since two AZL games in 2016. His situation is personal and should remain confidential. But I can tell you that I've seen him at the Royals complex and he looks to be in good physical condition with some added upper body strength. But that's all I've got for you.
- With the Royals in rebuild mode and likely to lose 90-100 games in 2019, why not throw Kyle Zimmer and Bubba Starling into a game just for the heck of it? It'd be fun for the fans if nothing else.
Bill Mitchell: Angie, I talked about Starling in a previous question. As for Zimmer he's no longer on the 40-man roster and is now a minor league free agent. When I asked about him earlier this year I was told that he was on his own program and not working out at the Royals complex. His future is even more uncertain than before, which is a shame because when he was healthy he looked to not be too far away from pitching in the big leagues.
Terry (St. Louis):
- Do you think Nicky Lopez is possibly still underrated? All he ever does is hit and not strike out with great approach. Sometimes those guys end up hiting for more power than expected in the big leagues, ala Jose Ramirez, Jose Altuve and Mookie Betts. With the way baseballs are flying in the big leagues is there a chance he could be more valuable than say Mondesi?
Bill Mitchell: Those of us associated with Baseball America have been sitting pretty close to the front of the Nicky Lopez bandwagon, so we certainly haven't been underrating him. He's still very undersized but I've seen him drive balls in the past. I'm at the point where I won't discount ANY player's ability to develop power in today's game (Has Scooter Gennett really hit 50 HRs over the past two seasons or am I still dreaming that???). With that said, I don't see Lopez getting to that kind of power. Mondesi had a breakout season, so I don't want to say who will be the most valuable between Nicky and Raul A. Those are both exciting players that should thrill Royals fans for years.
Norm Chouinard (Connecticut):
- Thanks for the chat. Is Carlos Hernandez a prospect? As a native of Venezuela who didn't make his pro debut until his 20 year old season, he seems to have an unusual profile.
Bill Mitchell: Norm, thanks for asking about Hernandez who is a very exciting arm in the Royals system. He didn't sign until he was 19 and then for only a $15k bonus, but he throws in the mid to high 90s and his power curveball has the chance to be a special pitch for him. His first full season was interrupted twice this year due to a personal issue that had him back home early in the season and then shut down for some minor soreness late in the season. Some scouts see Hernandez with more potential to be a power reliever in the back of a bullpen than a starter, but I'd like to see what he can do in a full season with no time off the field. Yes, he's a prospect and will be in the Prospect Handbook.
Shauncore (Kansas City):
- Bill, you're an all-around great guy, but I have to question your ranking of Khalil Lee on this top 10 list. To me, he's a tweener outfielder with no power and too many strikeouts. I'd have Chase Vallot top five easily on this and Lee nowhere to be found. Can you explain Lee's place near the top and the glaring omission of Vallot please?
Bill Mitchell: Shauncore, thanks for calling me an all-around great guy. I appreciate that. As for Lee, his strengths and projection have been well-documented not just by Baseball America but by other prospect publications and websites. So let's talk about Chase Vallot. He's got plus raw power but the swing-and-miss tendencies and lack of feel for hitting resulted in a poor season for him. He hit .108 at Wilmington with a 43 percent strikeout rate, resulting in being sent first back to extended spring training and then to the Pioneer League. Sorry, but Vallot was not even in the conversation for the Top 30 much less the Top 5.
Frank (Indianapolis, IN):
- Even though you don't get a vote, how many of these guys are worthy of making the BA 100 list?
Bill Mitchell: Singer will certainly be a top 100 guy this year and maybe Lee, too. Lynch and Kowar will likely come close and should be contending for the list next year at this time if they continue to pitch like they did in their pro debuts.
- Thanks for the chat. Any thoughts on what the Royals do at 1b next year? Ohearn was impressive against righties but hasn’t solved lefties yet, Dozier was just plain bad, and there is Frank Schwindel. Would an ohearn /Schwindel platoon make sense?
Bill Mitchell: O'Hearn earned the chance to be the left-handed hitting half of a platoon. As for his right-handed counterpart, I'd like to see Schwindel get a chance just for the chance to prove he's more than just an org guy or 4-A hitter. Otherwise you could see Dozier or perhaps some non-roster invitee that impresses in camp. I bet you wish Jose Martinez was still around to fill that role, right?
Gary (So Cal):
- Thoughts on Christian Cosby ? 2018 pick from a small school
Bill Mitchell: Cosby is an interesting one to watch for the future. While he was a 21-year-old pitching in the Arizona League, the big-bodied southpaw is relatively inexperienced as a pitcher, having pitched sparingly at D-3 Chapman University in southern California until his final year there. He's already in the mid-90s and could get higher with more experience, but with not much command yet. He wasn't in the conversation for either the Arizona League or Royals prospect lists, but tuck away his name and check on him over the next few years.
- Stange that nearly all of their prospects are going to the same team in Wilmington. How will this system stack up?
Bill Mitchell: That Wilmington team projects to be one of the most prospect-laden teams in minor league baseball next year. I may have to plan a trip there if one of my friends in the area agrees to put me up for a home stand. The Royals were the 29th ranked organization last year. While I'm not involved in that ranking process or have a good feel for the east coast organizations, I have to believe that the Royals system will move up the board this year.
- I had the chance to see the Northwest Arkansas team this season. Nick Heath really impressed me. I know you're seeing him in the AFL now. I read a comparison to Terrence Gore somewhere. Do you see that? His speed, athleticism and defense really stood out.
Bill Mitchell: Johnny, thanks for asking about Heath. He's really opened some eyes this year. He's a plus-plus runner and a superb defender but I believe there's more to his bat than from Gore. While he doesn't hit a lot of home runs, he's got some pull-side power. That 27 percent strikeout rate has to get better so that he can take advantage of his speed. Heath will be 25 soon and may not get above a 5th outfielder projection, but his speed and defense will keep him in the picture. I wrote a report on him but I don't know that he makes the top 30 when our list for the Prospect Handbook is completed.
Derek (Kansas city):
- With MLB having Lovelady #13 in Royals organization, why isn't he on other top prospect list such as baseball america?
Bill Mitchell: Derek, I talked about Lovelady and his projection earlier. We haven't yet finalized the rankings outside of the top ten but Lovelady will likely be in the 15-20 range similar to where other lists put him.
- Who are your favorite sleeper pitching prospects for the Royals? Seems like there is now a lot of pitching depth beyond Singer, Kowar, Lynch, etc.
Bill Mitchell: Keep your eye on Yefri Del Rosario, who the Royals signed last year after the Dominican right-hander had to be let go from the Braves because of sanctions against that organization for international signing violations. He finished very strong with an 0.75 ERA over six starts in the month of August. Del Rosario was only 18 this summer, so pitching in the South Atlantic League at that age was an accomplishment. With a deceptive delivery and a fastball already up to 95, Del Rosario is a likely candidate to move higher on this list next year. Please order your Prospect Handbook so you can find out where we ranked him this year. I'll drop a few other names of pitchers to remember next season: Yohanse Morel, Rylan Kaufman and Zach Haake.
- Who are some less heralded Royals prospects that could break out in 2019?
Bill Mitchell: I listed several pitchers in the previous question, but I inadvertently omitted possibly the most interesting breakout candidate: Elvis Luciano. This 18-year-old right-hander was acquired from Arizona in the trade for Jon Jay. He's advanced for his age, and after pitching in Burlington and two late-season games in Idaho Falls Luciano will undoubtedly be ready for Low-A in 2019. With a fastball 90-95 and three pitches that he can use for strikeouts, Luciano could really jump up the list next year. As for hitters who could break out, I talked about Brewer Hicklen earlier but I'm also curious to see how Kelvin Gutierrez (acquired from Washington in the Kelvin Herrera deal) will do when he presumably gets to Triple-A in 2019. He's a plus defender at third base with a plus arm, and there's some belief that he's got a swing that will finally tap into some over-the-fence power.
- It fascinates me that 3 of the top 4 prospects were just drafted. Is that an indication that KC's farm was really bad or are Singer, Kowar, and Lynch just that good? Or a combination of both??
Bill Mitchell: It's a combination of both, but has more to do with the potential of those three first round picks. The system was ranked 29th overall last year so any influx of talent like the Royals just experienced was bound to significantly beef up the top ten, but there's a lot to like about the future of Singer, Lynch and Kowar.
Bill Mitchell: Thanks for the great participation today. I've got to wrap up so that I can get out to a Fall League game this afternoon (it's a beautiful day for baseball here in Arizona!). There were still some questions in the queue, so if I didn't get to you then feel free to hit me on Twitter @billazbbphotog. I especially want to think more about the Seuly Matias-Joey Gallo and Khalil Lee-Lorenzo Cain comparison questions. Please order your Prospect Handbooks from the Baseball America store. I'll be back later this year to chat about the Seattle Mariners organization. Thanks again!