Kansas City Royals 2018 Top 50 Prospects

Kansas City Royals Top 50 Prospects for 2018

The Royals are in an awkward place. You remember Steve, from high school? He’s the guy that got lucky at junior prom, which then became the pinnacle of his young adult life. When you meet at the old hang outs Steve is still wearing his favorite shirt, even though it doesn’t really agree with his new paunch. He is still trying to comb his hair back but his hairline is receding faster than the gel can stick it in place. Maybe he married that girl and got a job at the appliance store. After a few drinks when the conversation lags, Steve is sure to start with “Remember the time…”

Now maybe Steve has noticed the paunch, or the woman has moved on, or the appliance store closed. He needs to make a change. So, to, do the Royals. They need to take that trip to Italy, fish that season in Alaska, take the plunge for grad school, or open their own shop. It’s time. We’ll always have 2015. For God’s sake, take the draft picks.

Instead they have re-signed Alcides Escobar in an apparent effort to screw over their only ready for 2018 young guy, Raul Mondesi. He is no longer prospect eligible, but finally had a legit consolidation season in AAA Omaha as a 21 year-old. He seems ready to redeem the hyper-aggressive Royal promotions with a decent season – 16-years-old in the Pioneer League? YES! 17 in Low-A? Sure! 19 in AA? – Go get ’em, kid! 20 years old and added to the World Series Roster for no damn reason? Absolutely! Opening Day 2B in 2017 over Whit Merrifield? Of course. Now that the future is wide open, the Royals are going to slow down and bring in a veteran to slow roll the kid? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot folks. If we had mutual friends I would consider an intervention.

Outside of that weirdness, this list is better than the 2017 one – you have to read further down to find the ‘well that’s not going to work’ guys, which is encouraging. The top Royal prospects  still aren’t very good, but at least there are more of them. Hosmer and Moustakas should follow in Cain’s footsteps to sign elsewhere, and that will help the 2018 draft class tremendously. So go ahead, Royals, trade in the threadbare ‘College’ sweatshirt for something more forgiving and dressier. All that I ask is that you not take 30 years to climb back on top…

This is a dynasty league list, with an emphasis on potential and performance. We don’t have to care about who is going to pitch the 6th or 14th innings, backup up SS, or be the third catcher on the 40-man.

Editor note: The Royals acquired RHP Heath Fillmyer from the Oakland A’s on January 29th. Fillmyer is not included here on K.C. Shankland’s Top 50 prospects. He was just recently ranked 18th on Jen Rainwater’s Oakland A’s Top 50.

Prospects1500 Tiers:
Tier 1: Players with high expectations of both making the majors and playing at an All-Star level for a number of years
Tier 2: Players with an above average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 3: Players with an average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 4: Players who have the potential of making the majors, or have high likelihood of making the majors but providing minimal impact (e.g. middle reliever, low-ceiling UT guys)
Tier 5: Players who are worth keeping an eye on, but likely to never make a team’s 40-man roster


Tier 1:

Tier 2:

We humans seem to have an innate preference for ordinal numbers: 1 is followed by 2, which is followed by 3, etc. We immediately categorize and sort everything and everyone we come into contact with, as we add newly encountered material to our anthropological universe. Of course, it’s all bullshit. We would rather be wrong about the order than forswear its certainty. Except for me. I’m going to tell you there is no difference here, really, just hazy probabilities of which electron falls where when we check on it. Blame Einstein, Bartman, me, whichever.

All four of these guys, variously acquired, are within 5 months of age of each other. You could rank them in any order. Here is mine.

1. Khalil Lee, OF 
Age: 19 (6/26/98)
2017 Highest Level: A
Turned 19 in Low-A Lexington and handled it OK. Slashed 237/344/430 with a windy Western Kansas’s worth of whiffs (171 in 532 PA, K-rate of 32%). That is too many, but his 65 walks show he isn’t lost up there. The other factor I’m weighing here is pedigree: Pratto and Melendez are both baseball lifers and I’m assuming Matias has been part of some baseball academy since before he shaved. Lee wasn’t a big time prospect so he is figuring it out as he goes. His upside is a 20/20 CF, maybe more. He needs major refinement of his hit tool to get there and threaten Khalil Green’s 8.4 WAR for the Grand Champion Khalil name prize.

2. Seuly Matias, OF
Age: 19 (9/4/98)
2017 Highest Level: Rookie
Turned 19 after the season ended at Rookie-level Burlington. The K-rate dropped while moving up a level from last year, while maintaining a .180 ISO. Still have to question the hit tool, which like Lee will be the defining characteristic. All-Star RF upside, very long way to go to get there.

3. MJ Melendez, C
Age: 19 (11/29/98)
2017 Highest Level: Rookie
Baseball rat. Coaches kid. As I noted in my draft overview last year, ‘Hey great a prep catcher. He probably isn’t going to work out’. The only real comparable in recent history to overslot 2nd round prep catcher is Austin Hedges. The theme for the top of the list is ‘so, about that hit tool…’ MJ is supposed to be a catcher first catcher so if he hits at all he should make it to ‘The K’, but it is likely to be a couple of years into the next decade.

4. Nick Pratto, 1B
Age: 19 (10/6/98)
2017 Highest Level: Rookie
So I put Pratto fourth. It would be easier to give him the ‘gentleman’s pass’ to the top spot for the incoming first rounder, but nah. I think he is much more likely to get a MLB AB than Lee or Matias. I mainly can’t get over the fact that on a team of 12-year-old boys in the Little League World Series, a kid that isn’t built like Prince Fielder was stuck at the cold corner. That doesn’t scream future big-leaguer to me, and I recognize that is my silly hang-up. As I pointed out in the draft overview above, mid-first round prep 1B is also a tough profile. Since 2000 there have only been five of them: Casey Kotchman 13th in 2001, Billy Butler 14th in 2004, Dom Smith 11th in 2013, Josh Naylor 12th in 2015, and now Pratto 14th overall last year. Give me one of the other three possibilities, please.

5. Trevor Oaks, RHP
Age: 24 (3/26/93)
2017 Highest Level: AAA
Came over from the Dodgers in the three-way Alexander/Soria salary dump. Had to clear payroll to sign Escobar I guess. Oaks will likely make the opening day rotation, sprouting from an acorn of a trade into a…. fourth starter.

Tier 3:

6. Josh Staumont, RHP
Age: 24 (12/21/93)
2017 Highest Level: AAA
There is a multiverse where Staumont has already won a Cy Young. Of course so have you. In this one, if you squint hard enough, you can see some progress. BB/9 dropped even if he had to be sent back to AA to show it. He was done in by giving up a tater every five innings in Omaha. I’d have him keep piling up the innings, as 6BB/9 doesn’t play in the bullpen either.

7. Nicky Lopez, SS
Age: 22 (3/13/95)
2017 Highest Level: AA
The Creighton alum was supposed to be the best defensive college SS in his draft class, with questions about his bat making him a 5th rounder. Well, here we are and he made in to AA in his first full season, capping that off with an impressive run through the Arizona Fall League. He’s not going to have enough power to be a good hitter, but it may be enough to make it.  Scott Servais holds the Creighton position player alum WAR mark at 3.1. I think Lopez catches him.

8. Miguel Almonte, RHP
Age: 24 (4/4/93)
2017 Highest Level: MLB
This is the year. He has been in every Baseball America Prospect Handbook since 2012. I’m ranking him this high because I think the Kauffman bullpen will be wide open shortly, and someone is going to throw hard and close. I think Almonte is the next man up.

9. Chase Vallot, “C”
Age: 21 (8/21/96)
2017 Highest Level: A+
More of the same, again missing big chunk of the season to injury. .231/.380/.438, 34 XBH in the partial season at High-A Wilmington, and yep, concerns about the hit tool, 35% K-rate. He is still young enough that it could click. Mike Napoli spent his 20 year-old season in Low-A and hit .251/.362/.392, then repeated High-A at 21 and 22. There is time is all I’m saying.

10. Erick Mejia, SS
Age: 23 (11/9/94)
2017 Highest Level: AAA
Above-average offense from a SS in AA – if he can manage to stand around the infield with his glove, he is a better hitter than Ramon Torres right now.  Also stole 25 bags in 29 attempts. Came over with Oaks in Alexander/Soria deal, has a chance to make it sting less.

11. Elier Hernandez, OF
Age: 23 (11/21/94)
2017 Highest Level: AA
Man. Finally pulled it all together and was dominating at AA when an outfield collision ended his season. Came back for the Arizona Fall League but didn’t get it going again. Let’s hope a return trip to NW Arkansas and full off-season brings the magic back.

12. Richard Lovelady, LHP
Age: 22 (7/7/95)
2017 Highest Level: AA
Limited by how big an impact a lefty reliever can have, but Lovelady is shooting up the system. He is fairly adept at retiring righties as well, so should quickly fit in to Alexander’s old role.

13 – 16.
Eric Skoglund, LHP
Age: 25 (10/26/92)
2017 Highest Level: MLB

Foster Griffin, LHP
Age: 22 (7/27/95)
2017 Highest Level: AA

Brad Keller, RHP
Age: 22 (7/27/95)
2017 Highest Level: AA

Scott Blewett, RHP
Age: 21 (4/10/96)
2017 Highest Level: A+

Pick ’em. Here are some backend starter guys. Skoglund has made his MLB debut and was pummeled. Keller is a Rule 5 pick from Arizona so is likely to pitch out of the pen this year but has a chance to come back and start. Griffin survived a trip to AA and threw 161 innings. Blewett is the furthest from MLB, was about a league-average guy in High-A Wilmington. They don’t all pull a Junis butyouneverknow…

17 – 19. 
Meibrys Viloria, C
Age: 20 (2/15/97)
2017 Highest Level: A

Emmanuel Rivera, 3B
Age: 21 (6/29/96)
2017 Highest Level: A

Gabriel Cancel, 2B
Age: 21 (12/8/96)
2017 Highest Level: A

In 2017 Kentucky put away some fine bourbons that will be ready in 5-7 years, and the Lexington Legends produced several players that could make a smooth finish sooner. Viloria held his own offensively, is supposed to be a great catcher, and is the youngest. He was also added to the 40-man, so obviously the Royals are on board. Rivera popped after a fine winter ball campaign. Cancel was tapped as a ‘Don’t scout the stat line special’ last year in this space at #14. Don’t look at the other two of his group – one out of three is pretty good!

Tier 4:

20. Frank Schwindel, 1B
Age: 25 (6/29/92)
2017 Highest Level: AAA
What the hell was that? I mean, it probably doesn’t work – guys rocking .350 BABIP and .200 ISO are stars – and Alcides Escobar thinks he should take a couple pitches. A 3% walk rate is not an aberration – that is his career rate after more than 2000 AB.

Then there was this, comments on last year’s Top 50:

I believe that Frank Schwindel had 20 homers and 70 ribs and also represented the Royals for All Star and home run derby, not too bad considering that you commented that he did not do well in Double A,

  • Thanks for the comment Mike. I re-read what I wrote, which was “All the stuff written about Ryan O’Hearn applies, except that Schwindel is older and didn’t hit as well in AA”.

    Both of those things are true. O’Hearn is a year younger, and put up a 123 wRC+ vs Schwindel’s 112. For comparison’s sake, Eric Hosmer was 20 years old in his half season at AA, and put up a 165 wRC+. College 1B have to really rake to make it, let alone be relevant in dynasty baseball leagues. I hope Schwindel proves me wrong, but I wouldn’t bet much on it. Thanks for reading.

    • I will bet given 450 at bats he will hit 30/40 homers and drive in over 80 ribs,,that is if he is given the opportunity .I have been his hitting instructor for 15 years and we have adjusted a few things,,

So, Mike: nice job. He fell a little short in the dingers but he got the ribs. The Royals passed on adding Schwindel or O’Hearn to the 40-man, and every other team passed on taking them in the Rule 5 draft. Like I said previously, he is going to have to prove it.

21. Samir Duenez, 1B
Age: 21 (6/11/96)
2017 Highest Level: AA
At some point being young for the level isn’t enough, you have to hit some – especially as a 1B. He’s still on the 40-man and that counts for something.

22. Ryan O’Hearn, 1B
Age: 24 (7/26/93)
2017 Highest Level: A
Bad year. Got kicked down to AA by Schwindel’s success.

23- 26.
Donnie Dewees, OF
Age: 24 (9/29/93)
2017 Highest Level: AA

Bubba Starling, OF
Age: 25 (8/3/92)
2017 Highest Level: AAA

Hunter Dozier, 3B
Age: 26 (8/22/91)
2017 Highest Level: AAA

Kyle Zimmer, RHP, theoretically
Age: 26 (9/13/91)
2017 Highest Level: AAA

These guys are all put here to avoid the ‘hey did you forget about….’ questions. No, how could we. They are some guys that might yet still do some stuff but I wouldn’t be buying any shares at this point. Dewees is a 4th OF maybe. If you squint really hard Starling had a better year. Maybe he is an replacement-level CF if the glove is +30? Dozier picked the wrong year to take off. His winter ball numbers are blah. There are likely AB to be had so the chance is there. Zimmer has thrown 111 innings in the past four seasons, total. Maybe the one start a week thing in Japan would work?

27 – 31.
Michael Gigliotti, OF
Age: 21 (2/14/96)
2017 Highest Level: A

Brewer Hicklen, OF
Age: 21 (2/9/96)
2017 Highest Level: Rookie

Charlie Neuweiler, RHP
Age: 19 (2/8/99)
2017 Highest Level: Rookie

Evan Steele, LHP
Age: 21 (11/14/96)
2017 Highest Level: Rookie

Daniel Tillo, LHP
Age: 21 (6/13/96)
2017 Highest Level: Rookie

The best of the rest of the 2017 draft class. Gigliotti (gotta come up with a family friendly nickname) hit the ground running, making it to Lexington in his debut season. Had a fantastic 40:41 BB:K ratio and tacked on 22 SB. Brewer Hicklen is the requisite Royals draft toolsy athlete guy. He played WR for UAB’s football team but demonstrated fine baseball skills in his short season debut. Neuweiler is a high schooler from NYC which seems like a tough baseball profile. His high school is about midway between Citi Field and Yankee Stadium, so maybe he was Royals fan. Steele and Tillo are JuCo lefties. Tillo was Mr Iowa Basketball in high school. Can I start calling Steele Steely Van?

32. Cam Gallagher, C
Age: 25 (12/6/92)
2017 Highest Level: MLB
Everyone knows once you’ve won the World Series you have to give your waiver-wire backup catcher to Iron Man Salvy Perez a two-year deal. Or someone knows it. I don’t know of any evidence that Butera could outperform Gallagher in 2018. But for Butera’s two million and Esky’s two million, the Royals could almost afford Soria <SARCASM FONT>

33. Nick Dini, C
Age: 24 (7/27/93)
2017 Highest Level: AA
Hello, what have we here? 14th rounder that has hit a little at every stop along the way, culminating in AA last year.

34. Scott Barlow, RHP
Age: 25 (12/18/92)
2017 Highest Level: AAA
Minor league free agent signed to a big league deal. Color me skeptical – he did have a nice K spike but mainly looks like he was kissed by the BABIP fairy last year. At AA Tulsa in 2016 he gave up a .306 BABIP and had a 3.98 ERA, in 2017 it was .211 leading to a 2.18 ERA. He was bludgeoned in 7 PCL starts. Pass.

35. Burch Smith, RHP
Age: 27 (4/12/90)
2017 Highest Level: AAA
Age is not a typo. Missed most of three seasons to TJ before working his way back with 56 IP last year. Rule 5 pick from the Rays. He may stick in the pen.

Tier 5:

36. Juan Carlos Negret, CF
Age: 18 (6/19/99)
2017 Highest Level: Rookie (DSL)

37. Yefri del Rosario, RHP
Age: 18 (9/23/99)
2017 Highest Level: Rookie

Part of the late 2017 Braves prospect exodus  – what are we calling it, Tomahawk Drop? Negret had a great DSL campaign before the Royals snagged him. Yefri reportedly picked the Royals over other teams because his hero was Yordano Ventura. He was brought over to pitch in the states at 17, which is a great sign.

38 – 39.
Dennicher Carrasco, 3B
Age: 22 (10/12/95)
2017 Highest Level: Rookie

Jesus Atencio, C
Age: 21 (8/22/96)
2017 Highest Level: Rookie

Here it is, your 2018 ‘Don’t Scout the Stat Line’ special. Carrasco had a nice year in Burlington, apparently only his second year in organized ball. His .288/.322/.500 line is more impressive when coupled with his 15% K-Rate. Hopefully will get a chance to keep working at Lexington in 2018.

“I wonder why the Royals keep getting these Venezuelan catchers?” he asked rhetorically. Atencio held his own as a 20-year-old in Burlington.

40. Anderson Miller, OF
Age: 23 (5/6/94)
2017 Highest Level: AA
Same split season results as last year. 2016: hit in Low-A, struggled in High-A. 2017: Hit in High-A, struggled in AA. At this rate should finally hit in MLB in 2020 as a 26 year-old rookie. I mean, maybe?

41. Zachary Lovvorn, RHP
Age: 23 (5/26/94)
2017 Highest Level: AA
Beat up by the BABIP fairy in AA. That is also a sign his stuff doesn’t play. Has had a long slog so far from the 6th round of the the 2012 draft.

42. Gerson Garabito, RHP
Age: 22 (8/19/95)
2017 Highest Level: A
Repeated Low-A and was OK. Needs to keep moving.

43. Jace Vines, RHP
Age: 23 (9/4/94)
2017 Highest Level: AAA
146 innings across three levels. Fourth rounder from 2016 did OK, K rate too low to feel confident about it.

44. Corey Toups, 2B
Age: 24 (2/12/93)
2017 Highest Level: AAA
Needs the bat to come on to have a chance.

45. D.J. Burt, 2B
Age: 22 (10/13/95)
2017 Highest Level: A+
Fun profile. Below average hitter despite awesome walk rate and 32 SB in 45 tries at High-A Wilmington. Probably not going to work.

46. Janser Lara, RHP
Age: 21 (8/10/96)
2017 Highest Level: Rookie
Pioneer League All-Star. No one can take that 100°F degree night in Hillsboro away from Janser.

47 – 50. 
Matt Morales, SS
Age: 21 (11/26/96)
2017 Highest Level: Rookie

Travis Jones, OF
Age: 22 (9/29/95)
2017 Highest Level: Rookie

Isaiah Henry, OF
Age: 18 (3/22/99)
2017 Highest Level: Rookie

Isaiah Smith, OF
Age: 18 (6/19/99)
2017 Highest Level: Rookie

Later rounds of the 2017 draft. Morales is a Florida JuCo guy that did OK in the Pioneer League. Jones is 22 now and needs to crush the ball in full season ball to have a chance. In 2015 the Royals spent thousands of hours of scouts and area scouts and cross checkers and scouting directors time to prepare for the draft. At the end someone pounded on the table and said ‘give me the two top prep arms in Indiana!’ It didn’t work, as Nolan Watson has had Boeing-like ERAs (7.57 in 2016, 7.87 in 2017) and Ashe Russell has stepped away from the game. In 2017 they cornered the market on Isaiahs. Isaiah was the 51st most popular boys name in 1999. In 2016 the 51st most popular name was Jenson. Look for the Royals to corner the market on Jensons in 2034.

Ten more for the gluttons, in alphabetical order:

Daniel Duarte, RHP – AAA Rule 5 pick. Pitched for Quintana Roo after spending two years with the lowest levels of the Rangers system.

Xavier Fernandez, C – lost 2017 season to injury following a solid 2016 season in Lexington.

Amalani Fukofuka, OF – every announcer is rooting for AH-MAH-LAN-EE FUU-KOE-FUU-KAH to make it. Also made the Pioneer League All-Star game.

Marten Gasparini, OF – wRC+ improved from 58 to 81, next year could yield a 104 as a 21-year-old repeating Low-A for the third time.

Jeison Guzman, SS – Had an abysmal year in Burlington.

Sebastian Rivero, C – Part of the Venezuelan catcher mafia.

Oliver Nunez, 3B – Needs to skip a level or two to get caught up to kids his age.

Manny Olloque, 3B – Idaho Falls is located at an elevation of 4705 ft. Lexington is found at an elevation of 978 ft. Just pointing out that random trivia for you.

Ramon Torres, IF – If everything breaks right can steal 10 bags in MLB this year.

Nolan Watson, RHP – Oof. Boeing is going to sue for their ERA trademark.

KC Shankland lives in Maple Valley, Washington. His Royals fandom runs from the Royals/Yankees blood feud of the ‘70s to Hosmer’s mad dash home.

‘People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. Obsess over prospects.’


  1. Very nice writeup KC, I enjoyed it!
    Two questions:
    no longer eligible but are you still excited about Mondesi??
    Also, can Skoglund be a decent major league starter? What do you think the likelihood of that ceiling is?

    -Steve (not from highschool)

    • Hah sorry about that.

      I am excited by Mondesi, but the Royals apparently aren’t. Their treatment of the young prospect is just weird. They apparently signed Escobar as the everyday SS, leaving Mondesi without a defensive home unless they trade Merrifield at 2B. I think Mondesi is capable of a few 20 HR/40 SB seasons but the BA/OBP will lag.

      The Royals have many questions and few answers for their rotation. Skoglund is certainly in the mix. I don’t feel great about it. He certainly _can_ be a decent option. I think it is likelier that you will wince a little bit every time you see him on the probable starter list.

  2. Two options for Gigliotti’s nickname:

    Giggles-seemed to be smiling, every time I saw him.

    Glitterati-it rhymes, and IMO his ability could eventually bring him some true measure of fame.

    Fukofuka is a real darkhorse prospect, for me. The tools are there, and he’s still young. If they want to do him a favor, they’ll send him back to Lexington to start 2018.

3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

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