Top 10 Prospects (2016): Kansas City Royals: Pitching Dominates Top Heavy System

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The Kansas City Royals made some bold moves at the Trade Deadline, impacting their prospect depth as they went out and acquired Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist. They didn’t leave themselves barren, however, as there are still prospects on the horizon who could make a significant impact.  That said there’s a tremendous drop-off after the first four names, though that allows us to be a little bit more aggressive in our rankings. Who are the best of the group? Let’s take a look:

1) Kyle Zimmer – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – A-
ETA – 2016

The fifth overall pick in 2012 got a late start to the season thanks to shoulder issues, but once he arrived he showed that he has the makings of an ace starter. Splitting time between High-A and Double-A, Zimmer only threw 64.0 IP but compiled a 2.39 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 10.13 K/9 and 2.81 BB/9. Over 216.2 IP in the minors he has demonstrated all of the skills we look for from a starting pitcher:

  • Strikeouts – 10.78 K/9
  • Walks – 2.83 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 1.41 GO/AO

If he can simply stay healthy it’s clear that he can make a significant impact. It will be interesting to see how many innings the Royals allow him to throw in 2016, but with a strong start he should arrive in Kansas City before long.

2) Raul Mondesi – Shortstop
Grade – B+
ETA – 2016

Prior to the World Series the expectation likely would’ve been that he wouldn’t arrive until 2017, but having been added to the roster (and subsequently making his MLB debut) at the grandest stage it appears like the team is willing to push the envelope. There’s no questioning the upside, but we need to wait for his talent to translate onto the field as he struggled at Double-A last season (.243, 6 HR, 19 SB over 304 AB). The real question is if he is going to be able to make enough contact:

  • High-A (2014) – 25.8%
  • Double-A (2015) – 26.0%

He’s still just 20-years old so there is time, and his talent is clear. However, he’s going to have to make an improvement in order to see his abilities translate to the field.

3) Miguel Almonte – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B
ETA – Already Arrived

Almonte worked out of the Royals’ bullpen in 2015 (8.2 IP), but his control could be an issue as he struggled at every level last season:

  • Double-A (67.0 IP) – 3.63
  • Triple-A (36.2 IP) – 3.68
  • Majors (8.2 IP) – 7.27

Sure there’s strikeout potential, but he needs to develop his repertoire and could ultimately settle into a bullpen role.

4) Ashe Russell – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B
ETA – 2019

The team’s first round pick this past season has tremendous upside, but he also allowed 8 HR over 36.1 IP in his first taste of professional baseball. It’s obviously a small sample size, but that’s an exceptionally concerning number and needs to be monitored closely. Drafted out of high school we’ll have to wait and see if he can develop his changeup, a common issue for pitchers his age, which could ultimately determine if he’s a lights out reliever or top-end starter.

5) Ryan O’Hearn – First Baseman
Grade – C+
ETA – 2017

This is an extremely aggressive rating, but after the Top 4 there is a dramatic falloff and a group of 8-10 players who are a bit interchangeable. Drafted in 2014, O’Hearn made a statement in his first full season by slugging 27 HR while splitting time between High-A and Double-A. The average did fall to .236 at Double-A, as he struck out 54 times in 161 AB, so we’ll have to watch and see if he can improve. That said power is at a premium around the game, so anyone who posts this type of year has to fall onto our radars.

The Next Five:

6) Jorge Bonifacio – Outfielder
7) Bubba Starling – Outfielder
Note – He was once considered a premier prospect, but his star has fallen in recent years. That doesn’t mean there isn’t upside we just have to wait and see if he can finally put it together.
8) Chase Vallot – Catcher
9) Scott Blewett – Right-Handed Pitcher
10) Foster Griffin – Left-Handed Pitcher

*** Want a chance to win a Noah Syndergaard autographed baseball, complete with a “Thor” inscription?  Find out how by clicking here!! ***

Grading System (still in development):
Grade A – Elite Prospects (aka potential future perennial All-Stars)
Grade B – Above Average Prospects (aka above average Major Leaguers, could develop into a potential All-Star)
Grade C – Average Prospects (aka solid, though unspectacular)
Grade D – Nothing More Than Roster Filler
Grade F – Move On

Make sure to check out all of our Top 10 Prospect lists:

AL EastAL CentralAL West
Baltimore OriolesChicago White SoxHouston Astros
Boston Red SoxCleveland IndiansLos Angeles Angels
New York YankeesDetroit TigersOakland A's
Tampa Bay RaysKansas City RoyalsSeattle Mariners
Toronto Blue JaysMinnesota TwinsTexas Rangers
NL EastNL CentralNL West
Atlanta BravesChicago CubsArizona Diamondbacks
Miami MarlinsCincinnati RedsColorado Rockies
New York MetsMilwaukee BrewersLos Angeles Dodgers
Philadelphia PhilliesPittsburgh PiratesSan Diego Padres
Washington NationalsSt. Louis CardinalsSan Francisco Giants

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