by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
As the Royals prepare for a rebuild at the Major League level, you could argue that they need one in the minors as well. The system isn’t barren, but it also isn’t particularly good with questions up and down the board. They lack a true elite talent, especially on the mound, and while there are a few bats who could take a step forward they are currently clouded by significant questions. Who has the upside? Let’s take a look:
1) Khalil Lee – Outfielder
Grade – B
ETA – 2020
The knock on Lee is going to be his strikeout rate, with a 32.1% mark over 532 PA at Single-A. Of course he also posted a 12.2% walk rate and while a 12.7% SwStr% is high considering the level, he is still just 19-years old and it doesn’t support as high of a mark as he had. An improvement there is going to go a very long way, as he has already displayed some power (47 extra base hits, including 17 HR) and speed (20 SB in 38 attempts). Obviously seeing an improvement in his efficiency would also help, but the athletic ability is there. If he can continue to adjust/improve at the plate (think .260ish or better), he could profile as a solid outfielder with the potential to produce across the board.
2) Nick Pratto – First Baseman
Grade – B
ETA – 2021
The 14th overall selection in the 2017 draft, the talk is that he can hit and has a strong approach at the plate. He didn’t show it in his first taste of professional baseball, hitting .247 with a 25.2% strikeout rate over 230 PA in Rookie Ball. Obviously there’s going to be an adjustment period and we’ve seen comps to Joey Votto and Eric Hosmer thrown around, but we’ll need to actually see it on the field.
Pratto did at least show that he’s starting to develop some power, logging 22 extra base hits in 198 AB, and he also showed an ability to draw a walk (10.4%). The upside is there and he could make a big leap with a strong showing this year (think “B+” grade). That said, considering the struggles we’ll remain cautious for now.
3) Hunter Dozier – Third Baseman
Grade – B-
ETA – Already Arrived
He missed a lot of time last season due to injury, only getting 111 AB in the minors. He did look good back in ’16, hitting .294 with 15 HR (and 36 doubles) over 391 AB at Triple-A. Overall that year (he also saw time at Double-A) he hit .296 with 68 extra base hits (44 doubles, 1 triple, 23 HR), though a 22.6% strikeout rate and 12.4% SwStr% do wave a few red flags. If he can tap back into that power, hitting 25+ HR annually, the strikeouts won’t be a significant issue (think .250+) since he also should drive in ample runs and could fill a spot in the middle of the order. There’s value there, though that may also be his ceiling.
4) Seuly Matias – Outfielder
Grade – C+
ETA – 2021
There are high hopes for his power, and he looks the part at 6’3” and 200 lbs. The question is going to be if he can start to translate the raw talent to on-the-field production. He hasn’t yet, but he just turned 19-years old so there is clearly time.
The average is a different story, though he showed improvement in his strikeout rate (36.9% to 29.3%). Of course the SwStr% is still pretty ugly:
- 2016 – 44.6%
- 2017 – 20.2%
It’s better, though it had no other direction to go. Even if he doesn’t improve and he produces 25+ HR annually no one is going to complain. That said, with experience he should take the necessary steps.
5) Foster Griffin – Left-Handed Pitcher
Grade – C+
ETA – 2021
Griffin pitched well in ’17, splitting time between High-A and Double-A:
- High-A – 2.86 ERA over 56.2 IP
- Double-A – 3.61 ERA over 104.2 IP
Of course he doesn’t show elite groundball stuff (43.2%), strikeouts (7.87 K/9) or walks (3.01 BB/9). He also generated a 10.1% SwStr%, which isn’t going to catch your eye, and he appears to be more of a back of the rotation starter as opposed to an ace-like option.
The Next Five:
6) Scott Blewett – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
7) MJ Melendez – Catcher (Grade – C+)
8) Nicky Lopez – Shortstop (Grade – C)
9) Eric Skoglund – Left-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C)
10) Donnie Dewees – Outfielder (Grade – C)
Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, MILB.com
Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Preseason Top 10 Prospect Lists: