Kansas City Royals 2021 Top 50 Prospects

Graphic design by John Stewart, @jonance on Twitter

The Royals continue to stockpile talent, as the championship run of 2015 fades further into the rear-view mirror. It’s understandable for the cupboards to be bare immediately following the successful journey up the mountain to baseball’s best. While the Royals have drafted well, I’m sure the fan base would trade every single prospect on this list for another World Championship.

A vast majority of these players have been acquired in 2016 through the 2020 MLB Draft. As with most teams, if not all, some drafts have been better than others. For the Royals, the recent hallmark of drafts is their 2018 edition, which is starting to pay some big dividends on the starting pitching front. Let’s take a look at the 2021 Top 50 Royals Prospects!


As we get into the rankings, here’s a quick breakdown of how the “Tier” system works here at Prospects1500:

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
Tier 5: Players who are worth keeping an eye on, but likely to never make a team’s 40-man roster.

*Clicking on the players name allows you to view their Baseball-Reference page

Tier 1

1. Bobby Witt Jr., SS
Age: 20
Highest Level: Rookie
Acquired: 2019 Draft Rd 1, Pick 2
Franchise cornerstone. Highly capable at SS, the Royals will find a way to get his bat in the lineup. Early reports from spring training and the alternate site suggest that Witt is rising to the occasion, even getting some work in at the Hot Corner. I still see Witt as an everyday, perennial All-Star SS, however.


2. Asa Lacy, LHP
Age: 21
Highest Level: College
Acquired: 2020 Draft Rd 1, Pick 4
Lacy was the best LHP in the 2020 Draft. He’s already being tagged with potential “Ace” label. Many guys can throw mid to upper 90’s in the minors, but it’s Lacy’s desire to dominate and his work ethic that sets him apart. Barring injury, he’ll be the jewel of the Royals deep arsenal of hurlers.

Tier 2

3. Erick Pena, OF
Age: 17
Highest Level: Rookie
Acquired: 2019 Amateur Free Agency
Super high ceiling for Pena. The sweet-swinging OF is already turning heads. While some scouts compare him to another former Royal, Carlos Beltran, I see Pena getting a heavy dose of right field. It’ll be Pena’s power bat with solid contact skills that carries him to stardom.

4. Daniel Lynch, LHP
Age: 24
Highest Level: High A
Acquired: 2018 Draft, Rd 1, Pick 34
Likely a strong number 2 starter with a mid 90’s fastball, plus slider, and plus changeup. His only average offering his curveball, which is fine because Lynch has been able to show that he can sequence his pitches to get hitters out. Plus stuff, good sequencing and well above average control have front offers staffers dreaming of a Lacy-Lynch 1-2 punch.

5. Jackson Kowar, RHP
Age: 24
Highest Level: Double A
Acquired: 2018 Draft, Rd 1, Pick 33
Kowar’s changeup is one of the best in the minors, which allows his high-velocity, but straight, fastball play up. Selected one spot ahead of Lynch in the draft, the former Florida Gator should get his major league debut in 2021 after a bit more seasoning in the minors. It won’t be long before he’s ready.

6. Kris Bubic, LHP
Age: 23
Highest Level: MLB
Acquired: 2018 Draft, Rd 1, Pick 40
Bubic remains barely prospect eligible after a decent rookie showing in the Bigs during the 2020 season. Control, and an excellent changeup allow him to rack up the strikeouts. The ten starts that Bubic was able to get in during the shortened season is invaluable experience. I’d look for him to study those starts and come out with much better results in his first full season.

7. Josh Staumont, RHP
Age: 27
Highest Level: MLB
Acquired: 2015 Draft, Rd 2, Pick 64
Staumont has taken hold of a high-leverage spot in KC’s pen. Armed with a high 90’s fastball, he induces a ton of swings and misses from opponents, racking up 13.0 K/9 in 2020. Look for him to continue to lock down the 8th inning in front of Greg Holland.

8. Nick Loftin, 2B/SS
Age: 22
Highest Level: College
Acquired: 2020 Draft, Rd 1, Pick 32
Some are comparing Loftin to Whit Merrifield, as the utility man has a good feel to hit. The Royals drafted him in the Competitive Balance Round A out of Baylor, and will look to maximize his versatility as a solid regular at multiple positions. He doesn’t possess the ceiling of an Erick Pena, but there’s no denying the high floor for Loftin.

9. Khalil Lee, OF
Age: 22
Highest Level: Double A
Acquired: 2016 Draft, Rd 3 , Pick 103
Lee has been gifted with tremendous speed, as he finished with the 2nd highest SB total in MiLB during the 2019 season. Should flash 20 HR power as well. Lee tends to see a lot of pitches in his at-bats, which I was able to witness in-person in 2019. At lower levels, he’s able to induce walks from those pitchers, but big league pitching will begin to turn those walks into more strikeouts unless he’s able to show more aggressive hunting strikes earlier in the count.

Tier 3

10. Kyle Isbel, OF
Age: 23
Highest Level: High A
Acquired: 2018 Draft, Rd 3, Pick 94
Isbel is more a high-floor type of prospect, but should be a serviceable corner OF (likely LF) at the MLB level. He’s well-rounded in his skill set, with ability to hit, some power, and some moderate speed. Organizations love players like him because they know what they have and aren’t fully dependent on guys to hit lofty ceilings. The system focus won’t be on Isbel due to some of the names listed above, but I have no reservations that he’ll be a solid player for a decade for the Royals.

11. Austin Cox, LHP
Age: 23
Highest Level: High A
Acquired: 2018 Draft, Rd 5, Pick 152
Cox has mid-rotation upside with a very nice fastball/curveball combination. The college lefty could force his way into a late season call-up in 2021.

12. Carlos Hernandez, RHP
Age: 23
Highest Level: MLB
Acquired: 2016 Amateur Free Agency
Premium velocity may force a role in the bullpen for Hernandez, but there’s still time to show the Royals he can take the ball every fifth day.

13. Yefri Del Rosario, RHP
Age: 21
Highest Level: Low A
Acquired: 2017 Free Agency
A wide range of outcomes is still probable for Del Rosario, however the stuff is present. He needs to stay healthy and pitch a complete season to set his pathway.

14. Ben Hernandez, RHP
Age: 19
Highest Level: High School
Acquired: 2020 Draft, Rd 2 Pick 41
The Royals were able to select and sign Hernandez to an under-slot deal in the 2020 Draft, however that doesn’t take away the fact that his double plus changeup and mid-nineties fastball is something to be excited about.

15. MJ Melendez, C
Age: 22
Highest Level: High A
Acquired: 2017 Draft, Rd 2, Pick 52
A former “buzzy” catching prospect, the hype surrounding Melendez has subsided. I still see a platoon catcher with some pop, as his calling card.

16. Nick Heath, OF
Age: 27
Highest Level: MLB
Acquired: 2016 Draft, Rd 16
The Royals farm teams love to run. Heath led all of the minor leagues in 2019 in stolen bases. With a high OBP, he is a terror on the basepaths. Look for Heath to get some playing time as a platoon outfielder this year in Kansas City.

17. Brady McConnell, SS
Age: 22
Highest Level: Rookie
Acquired: 2019 Draft, Rd 2, Pick 44
McConnell will likely move off of SS, and his plate discipline needs plenty of work. He was really good in college, so the Royals will continue to extend the leash for their 2nd round pick from 2019.

18. Kelvin Gutierrez, 3B
Age: 26
Highest Level: MLB
Acquired: 2018 Trade (Washington)
I view Gutierrez as a pinch hitter, defensive replacement type of player. He has a good amount of swing and miss in his game, but he’s adept at getting a key extra base hit when needed.

19. Daniel Tillo, LHP
Age: 24
Highest Level: Double A
Acquired: 2017 Draft, Rd 3, Pick 90
If the Royals need a late-inning, double play, this is the guy to call upon. Tillo led the minors with a 63.7% ground ball rate in 2019.

20. Jonathan Bowlan, RHP
Age: 24
Highest Level: High A
Acquired: 2018 Draft, Rd 2, Pick 58
Bowlan has answered concerns over development of secondary offering. He has excellent control , which will allow him to continue to develop as a starter.

21. Yohanse Morel, RHP
Age: 20
Highest Level: Low A
Acquired: 2018 Trade (Washington)
The ceiling is sky-high for Morel, with a high variance of outcomes still in play. The ability to control the baseball will determine his success.

22. Edward Olivares, OF
Age: 24
Highest Level: MLB
Acquired: 2020 Trade (San Diego)
The Royals traded Trevor Rosenthal to the Padres for Olivares. I’d expect to see him end up in a platoon with former Padre teammate Franchy Cordero.

Tier 4

23. Darryl Collins, OF
Age: 19
Highest Level: Rookie
Acquired: 2018 Amateur Free Agency
Collins has a line-drive approach which allows him to minimize strikeouts and get on base at .400 clip. He’s still young enough to grow into more power and rise up to Royals’ Top 10 lists throughout the prospect world.

24. Wilmin Candelario, SS
Age: 19
Highest Level: Rookie
Acquired: 2018 Amateur Free Agency
We have a limited sample on Candelario to this point, but the sample has been excellent. Power and speed is evident, with a plus hit tool. He is definitely one to watch.

25. Seuly Matias, OF
Age: 22
Highest Level: High A
Acquired: 2015 Amateur Free Agency
This feels like a make or break year for Matias. Seuly continues to fall down prospect rankings, due to his inability to make enough contact.

26. Tyler Gentry, OF
Age: 21
Highest Level: College
Acquired: 2020 Draft, Rd 3, Pick 76
The Crimson Tide product has a nice blend of power, speed, and hit. Add in his good plate discipline and you’re looking at a solid big leaguer, if not more. Keep an eye on his transition.

27. Luis De La Rosa, RHP
Age: 18
Highest Level: Rookie
Acquired: 2018 Amateur Free Agency
This ranking is aggressive for the young hurler, but so far the fastball command paired with an advanced changeup is paying off dividends.

28. Maikel Garcia, SS
Age: 20
Highest Level: Rookie
Acquired: 2016 Amateur Free Agency
The cousin of Alcides Escobar, Garcia has a present solid hit tool, speed, and good defense. He has moved slowly through the system, and had a good showing recently in the Venezuelan Winter League.

29. Evan Steele, LHP
Age: 24
Highest Level: Low A
Acquired: 2017 Draft, Rd 2, Pick 73
Like a lot of pitchers, health stands in the way of progression. Since 2018, Steele only has 49 innings under his belt. The results have been good, but he’ll need to show durability moving forward.

30. Alec Marsh, RHP
Age: 22
Highest Level: Rookie
Acquired: 2019 Draft, Rd 2, Pick 70
The former Sun Devil (#ForksUp) had an impressive showing in Idaho Falls, the Royals’ Rookie league affiliate. He possesses excellent control, as evidenced by 4 BB in 33.1 IP.

31. Christian Chamberlain, LHP
Age: 21
Highest Level: College
Acquired: 2020 Draft, Rd 4, Pick 105
The Royals may give him a chance to start, but I think Chamberlain finds his role in the back end of the bullpen. Doing so should allow his fastball to reside in the mid-90’s, pairing it with a 12-6 curveball that tends to miss a lot of bats.

32. Tyler Zuber, RHP
Age: 25
Highest Level: MLB
Acquired: 2017 Draft, Rd 6
Chalk up 2020 as learning year for Zuber, as the Royals called him up for 23 appearances, with mediocre results. Strictly a bullpen arm, he displayed excellent strike-throwing ability in the minors.

33. Grant Gambrell, RHP
Age: 23
Highest Level: Rookie
Acquired: 2019 Draft, Rd 3, Pick 80
I have to cut Gambrell some slack as he made 10 starts after being drafted out of Oregon State. Most college pitchers shut down after being drafted, then pick it up the following season. The results were not good, with nearly 14 H/9 given up in those starts.

34. Brewer Hicklen, OF
Age: 24
Highest Level: High A
Acquired: 2017 Draft, Rd 7
Long on athleticism, the former football player, displayed good power and well above average speed in the Carolina League. He’ll need to improve plate discipline to be able to move up the ladder.

35. Gabriel Cancel, 1B
Age: 24
Highest Level: Double A
Acquired: 2015 Amateur Free Agency
Cancel’s ceiling is a utility bench player, with an average hit tool and average power. It’s more likely he finds a role in the upper minors that gets the occasional call-up as an injury replacement.

36. Jeison Guzman, SS
Age: 22
Highest Level: Low A
Acquired: 2015 Amateur Free Agency
The clock is ticking on Guzman, as he enters his 5th season in the Royals system. So far, the production hasn’t met the expectations when they signed him in 2015. He has some speed in his skillset, as many Royals’ prospects do, but he doesn’t hit enough or possess stellar defense to keep him on the field.

37. Zach Haake, RHP
Age: 24
Highest Level: Low A
Acquired: 2018 Draft, Rd 6
With lack of control being a problem, it’s more likely than not that Haake transitions to the bullpen. He has some nasty stuff, but being able to harness it eludes him.

38. Sebastian Rivero, C
Age: 22
Highest Level: Triple A
Acquired: 2015 Amateur Free Agency
Catchers with superb defense have value. He’ll never be confused with fellow Royal, Salvador Perez, from a hitting standpoint, but he’ll play well enough behind the dish to be a big league backup.

39. Scott Blewett, RHP
Age: 24
Highest Level: MLB
Acquired: 2014 Draft, Rd 2, Pick 56
Blewett made 2 relief appearances in Kansas City and didn’t set the world on fire. He’s young for AAA Omaha, where the Royals will give him another shot to show he can compete for attention in a Royals’ system that is flush with pitching.

40. Vinnie Pasquantino, 1B
Age: 23
Highest Level: Rookie
Acquired: 2019 Draft, Rd 11
Vinnie looks the part of, at minimum, a defensive-minded 1B with the ability to smack a pinch-hit HR. He possesses good power, good feel to hit, and plays stellar defense. He shouldn’t need much time to make it to a bench role, and possibly more.

41. Will Klein, RHP
Age: 21
Highest Level: College
Acquired: 2020 Draft, Rd 5, Pick 135
The flamethrower out of Eastern Illinois possesses a 4 pitch mix, with the changeup still in development. He has the look of a mid-rotation arm or possible late inning bullpen piece.

42. Erick Mejia, SS
Age: 26
Highest Level: MLB
Acquired: 2018 Trade (Dodgers)
Mejia currently plays the role of part-time Utility player for the Royals. His upside is limited given his advanced age, however his ability to play outfield and infield is something the Royals covet.

Tier 5

43. Nick Pratto, 1B
Age: 22
Highest Level: High A
Acquired: 2017 Draft, Rd 1, Pick 14
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. It’s safe to say that Pratto hasn’t lived up to expectation. If the Royals could wind back the clock, they’d likely take Evan White in the first base spot.

44. Grant Gavin, RHP
Age: 25
Highest Level: Double A
Acquired: 2016 Draft, Rd 29
He has a chance to be a reliever, due to high strikeout rates. With several others in the system with a similar skill set, he’ll have to be spectacular to get to that level.

45. Rylan Kaufman, LHP
Age: 21
Highest Level: Rookie
Acquired: 2018 Draft, Rd 12
Organizational depth at this point. Youth is on his side, so he still has time to showcase his skill set.

46. Delvin Capellan, RHP
Age: 22
Highest Level: Rookie
Acquired: 2016 Amateur Free Agency
Good control will give him an outside chance at viability. Otherwise mediocre results at age-appropriate levels are cause for concern.

47. Michael Massey, 2B
Age: 22
Highest Level: Rookie
Acquired: 2019 Draft, Rd 4, Pick 109
Average hit tool with decent ability to get on base suggest a possible pinch hit role, but likely will be a career minor leaguer.

48. Omar Florentino, SS
Age: 19
Highest Level: Rookie
Acquired: 2018 Amateur Free Agency
Florentino is all about projection. Smaller frame may limit the upside, however his plate discipline will give him a long leash.

49. Jon Heasley, RHP
Age: 23
Highest Level: Low A
Acquired: 2018 Draft, Rd 13
The arsenal of pitches doesn’t possess a standout, at lower levels Heasley is able to mix his pitches to get effective results. This will be harder to do as he moves up levels, but if he can find success, he’ll rise up the rankings to one day have a shot at the big leagues.

50. Samuel Valerio, RHP
Age: 19
Highest Level: Rookie
Acquired: 2018 Amateur Free Agency
Big-framed righthander that throws gas. 3 pitch mix with the ability to remain a starter. He’s a long ways away, so I can’t project him on the 40 man as of now, but that could change with continued growth in 2021.




About Michael Kelley 4 Articles
Born in Arizona. Raised in the Midwest, and with lots of baseball. When I’m not writing about baseball or purchasing my next baseball card, I can be seen coasting down the highway to yet another travel baseball tournament with my wife and son. I love the Braves, bat flips and outfield assists.

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