We’re in mid-July and baseball is (hopefully?) right around the corner as the shortened 2020 season is scheduled to start on July 23rd. Rather than updating our preseason Top 50 Team Rankings based off of Spring Training data and observations, we are going to take a bit of a different approach here at Prospects1500. I want to highlight ten names you need to know within the Royals farm system, and we’ll look at their ability, or lack thereof, to impact the big league club in 2020. Each team correspondent will be submitting their own organization’s “10 Names You Need To Know” over the next month or so.
As you may know, MLB has dramatically revised the roster rules for the upcoming season, with teams being able to select 60 players that will be included in their pool of eligible players for the active roster. The Royals have selected 9 of their Top 10 prospects, according to our KC Top 50 rankings compiled before the beginning of the season. 11 of the top 15 and 14 of the top 20 are represented among the 60.
Our 60-player club pool for Summer Camp is set. pic.twitter.com/QwwGYvkiW8
— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) June 28, 2020
Without further adieu, let’s dive in to the 10 Names You NEED to Know in the Royals farm system!
1. Asa Lacy, RHP
The Royals shiny new draftee, their “Asa in the Hole”or “Asa in the Making”, Asa Lacy will not be part of the club pool for this season. This is a bit surprising, as the college season was shortened due to the coronavirus pandemic. Lacy only threw 24 innings over 4 games started in College Station. With a full season and deep run into the NCAA tournament, one would expect a top prospect to be shut down after being drafted. I can only guess the Royals feel confident in what Lacy possesses, and therefore do not feel the need to include him.
Check out this Asa Lacy pitch sequence:
▪️Curveball painted outside: strike 1
▪️Changeup down, opposite corner: strike 2
▪️Slider back outside: fought off
▪️Heat again painted: backward K
— Fish On The Farm (@marlinsminors) June 9, 2020
2. Bobby Witt Jr., SS
The Royals top prospect, even with Lacy now in the fold, makes his way onto the 60 man list. Witt did not have an impressive debut with the Royals’ rookie league team in the Arizona League from a statistical perspective. The tools are still there, and were still on display. I’ve got a feeling this time around older teammates will be invaluable experience for the phenom.
— Perfect Game USA (@PerfectGameUSA) May 7, 2020
3. Erick Pena, OF
On the surface, Pena’s omission from the squad seems surprising, given the fanfare surrounding the signing of the Dominican outfielder in 2019. Looking a bit deeper, we must keep in consideration that he’s still only 17-years-old and hasn’t played a single inning of professional baseball yet. The comparisons to a young Carlos Beltran aren’t far of, but he’s got a long way to go to get there. Thankfully, time is still on his side.
4. Kelvin Gutierrez, 3B
Gutierrez is the highest ranked prospect in the system that is currently on Kansas City’s 40-man roster. This is an important data point for service reasons. As he’s already on the 40-man, the Royals do not have to drop a player from the 40-man to make room for Gutierrez to be called up. He had a cameo with the 2019 Royals, hitting .260 over 79 plate appearances. Plate discipline is not a strong point for him, as evidenced by his 5:24 walk to strikeout ratio. An injury, or positive COVID-19 test for an infielder could lead to a short-term bench role.
5. Daniel Tillo, LHP
The southpaw from Sioux City, Iowa occupies the center of this list, however I fully expect Tillo to get some innings out of the bullpen for the boys in blue. Tillo was utilized as a starter in last year’s minor league season and really put together a less than flattering season. He possesses a massive sinking fastball that is best suited for a bullpen role. Need a ground ball to turn a double play? He’s your guy. With that turbo sinker, he simply needs to find another pitch that he can trust on an every-night basis to carve out his niche role in the ‘pen.
Daniel Tillo is 🔥🔥🔥
— WBSC ⚾ #Premier12 (@Premier12) November 13, 2019
6. Nick Heath, OF
The second outfielder to appear on the list is the most likely to hit the majors. Khalil Lee is certainly the outfield prospect that is more widely known, but it’s Heath that is already on the 40-man roster for the Royals, and therefore has one less hurdle in his way to get the call up. A former K-State track star, speed is his calling card. Heath racked up 60 steals, mostly for AA Northwest Arkansas. If the Royals are looking for a late inning stolen base or a speedster in the outfield to track a ball in the gaps, then I wouldn’t be surprised if Mike Matheny looks Heath’s way.
Nick Heath got picked off. Nick Heath still made it. pic.twitter.com/rC1knFm5XB
— Josh Norris (@jnorris427) October 12, 2018
7. Yohanse Morel, RHP
I didn’t include Morel on this list because I think he’ll find a way to get some big league innings. I included him because he’s a rising star in the Royals system, and is really flying under the radar. Some will merely look at the stat line and dismiss Morel, but I would caution against doing so. Morel has mid-90’s velocity with a plus changeup. It’s not uncommon for teenagers to struggle a bit in full-season baseball. When that’s the case, look for the tools and skillset.
Swear I’m not just here on #Royals coverage. Really really liked Yohanse Morel this morning. Bigger than listed 6’0/170, barely 18 y/o, some projection. FB 91-93 w sink, advanced CH 86-87, SL 82 (choked ’em). CH, FB, SL, CH to get Jaquez: pic.twitter.com/h5JJTe4QKu
— John T Eshleman (@2080_John) October 4, 2018
8. Josh Staumont, RHP
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Staumont make the Royals’ initial 30-man roster directly out of Summer Camp. Staumont is strictly a bullpen pitcher with premium velocity, but not much current ability to command where the ball is going. With 5 years of minor league baseball already behind him, the sand has run out of the hourglass on Staumont’s time to show the organization he can be a legitimate starting pitcher at the highest level.
9. Scott Blewett, RHP
Blewett has a massive frame from which to throw. He stands 6’6 and weighs 245. Blewett is a swing guy, meaning he can provide value to the Royals with a spot start or as a multiple innings reliever. He doesn’t possess a high amount of swing-and-miss stuff, and gives up too many hits. Throughout his minor league career thus far, he performs much better when he pitches at an age-appropriate level versus when he pitches at more of an advanced level for his age.
10. Foster Griffin, LHP
Rounding out the list is Griffin, who is also a future bullpen arm, despite honing his craft as a starter in the minor leagues. The lefty out of Orlando, Florida would likely have started in Omaha for the Storm Chasers. Instead, he’ll get the chance to impress the Royals’ front office and could be called upon should injuries take their toll.